34% of babies in the UK are receiving some breastfeeding after 6 months in comparison to Norway’s 71%.
Worrying statistics about breastfeeding are not uncommon in the UK. The impact this statistic has on public health is enormous but it also affects other areas of our lives.
In this article, we will go in-depth about the public health issue around breastfeeding in the UK
Whilst more women are breastfeeding and for longer, our rates in comparison to other countries like Norway are miles ahead of us. The UK has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world.
We must take a serious step back and think about what we need to do as a country in order to fix this preventable health issue.
Most of the health issues are not seen right away but that does not change the higher chances of illness and disease.
An important aspect of solving the problem is having the support of the public and the response is not happening as fast as we thought. We frequently see stories on social media about mums being shamed in public places for feeding their babies.
When it comes to breastfeeding, it is vital that we not only accept breastfeeding but actively support it. National and local support are both needed to help keep mums breastfeeding.
There is hope! Scotland has shown an amazing increase in breastfeeding numbers since 2010.
In 2018 Scotland shared its results from its maternal and infant nutrition survey. The survey showed a great increase in breastfeeding. Breastfeeding at six months increased from 32% in 2010 to 43% in 2017.
The results display the positive impact of a national infant feeding strategy. This strategy included supporting 100% of maternity and community services to achieve Baby-Friendly accreditation.
Improving UK Breastfeeding rates
Simply put, “Improving the UK’s breastfeeding rates would have a profoundly positive impact on child health.”
Increasing the number of babies breastfed could drastically cut the number of childhood illnesses per year. These common childhood illnesses such as ear, chest and stomach infections can save the NHS up to £50 million per year.
An important part of improving breastfeeding rates is the consistent support to families across all public services and social support in the local community. “The Baby-Friendly Initiative gives mothers the help within the healthcare services, delivering a holistic, child-rights based pathway for improving care.” This amazing initiative should be taken full advantage by all mothers who want the extra support.
In other European countries, we have witnessed an increase in breastfeeding by focusing on the core problems. Similar countries in terms of population size and demographics show that it is possible to see healthy increases in breastfeeding. The results show that the increase and change really start to begin once the country acknowledges the problem and actively decides to shift the culture to be more supportive of breastfeeding mums.
Seeing other countries increase their breastfeeding rates is just another indication that with political will and plan, we can really implement this lifesaving work.
Unicef, working in partnership with the WHO (World Health Organization) are actively working with the NHS to help put the standards in place to make a difference in children's lives across the UK.
Related: 9 Tips to Increase Milk Supply
When breastfeeding support was offered to women, the overall results of breastfeeding increased.
With these encouraging statistics, we should be embracing the future of breastfeeding but also the health benefits our next generation will enjoy. More importantly, we should see this research as concrete evidence that more women want to breastfeed and for longer. It also shows that a trained individual (Health visitor, midwife or doctor) should be helping mums with their breastfeeding journey.
The Journey of breastfeeding.
Mums tend to look back at baby pictures and instantly get warm feelings about their nursing experience. Memories like those are everlasting because it creates an unbreakable bond with your child. You will look back and remember the initial worry and doubt, but you will also how that was quickly overcome. Those initial worrying feelings were changed into confidence as you became more in tune with your body and the needs of your new baby.
For many women, their dearest memories were the months they spent nursing their children.
Some mums find it harder to get the milk flowing which can cause worry that the baby is not getting enough feeding. This is where the support comes in. Providing mum with solutions and keeping them informed.
Related: 9 Tips to Increase Milk Supply