World Breastfeeding Week 1st - 7th August

8 out of 10 Women Stop Breastfeeding Before They Want To

t may come as a surprise to many, but the UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, with eight out of ten women stopping breastfeeding before they want to. This is an important issue to deal with during World Breastfeeding Week, organised by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), which starts on 1st August. Despite Unicef undertaking extensive research and resounding evidence that breastfeeding saves lives, improves health and cuts costs in every country worldwide, Mother’s in the UK are struggling.

It is time to stop laying the blame for the UK’s low breastfeeding rates in the laps of individual women and instead acknowledge that this is a public health imperative for which government, policy makers, communities and families all share responsibility.

Bethan Richards, owner of Baby You Got This says: “As we approach World Breastfeeding Week, I am reminded of my days as a Midwife and Health Visitor where I would frequently see new Mothers in tears over infant feeding issues.

“The issues would always be the same, tiredness, frequent feeding, sore cracked nipples, engorgement, poor milk supply, mastitis, thrush, tongue-tie and more. Support to enable successful breastfeeding is crucial and is essential for those Mothers who need it most. Some Mothers and babies take to it like ducks to water and that’s great, but for those who need that extra help then services are failing them. New Mothers are well aware of the positive effects breastfeeding has for their baby and for themselves, if breastfeeding isn’t going so well for them, then those Mothers need additional practical support from professionals.”

Cuts to public spending have impacted on the numbers of Health Visitors now in practise and the Midwifery service is overstretched. Midwives are running postnatal clinics in maternity units as opposed to regular postnatal home visits. This current staffing situation reduces face to face contact and prevents continuity of care, all of which contributes to poor breastfeeding and parenting support.

There is no doubt that by improving UK breastfeeding rates, there will be benefits. The reduction in the incidence of common childhood illnesses can only be good for child health and development; resulting in savings for the NHS of up to £50 million each year (Source: Unicef). In order to achieve this though, there is a long way to go. Breastfeeding is not just about nutrients for baby, or problems in the ability to do it. There is a stigma attached to breastfeeding which needs to be eroded, it needs to be seen as normal. Women have babies, they have breasts to feed these babies and that should be acceptable in society in the 21st century. Some Mothers chose not to breastfeed and that is fine, but for those who want to it should not be frowned upon and for those who are struggling, help must be provided.

Bethan says: “We all have choices and how we feed our babies is one of them, but my issue is those Mothers who have been let down by the system, that the choice was taken away from them due to lack of service provision. They are the Mothers who are left feeling guilty and for some those feelings can then impact on maternal mental health. This is what makes World Breastfeeding Week so important.”

World Breast Feeding Week is supported by many international organisations such as Unicef the World Health Organisation (WHO) and La Leche. It is organised by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding on the health and welfare of babies and Mothers. WABA is a global network that aims to protect, promote and support breastfeeding around the world.