Breastfeed iconThis breastfeeding week, mothers in England were encouraged to give breastfeeding a go. Presently, England is among countries with the lowest rate of breastfeeding mothers in Europe. Only mothers in France, Germany and Ireland were found to have lower rates than England whereas nearly all mothers in Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Austria had a comparatively higher rate of breastfeeding.

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo announced this World Breastfeeding Week that an additional £2 million will be invested to urge mothers breastfeed their babies in England. He asserted, “By international standards not enough women breastfeed in England. This money will help more mums – particularly those in more deprived areas – to breastfeed and to do so for longer. We want to ensure women know the importance of breastfeeding and the benefits to themselves and their baby.”

Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson mentioned that a breastfeeding contributes to the mums and baby’s health. She remarked, “Our message is a simple one – if you are an expectant or new mum, don’t let these myths discourage you from giving breastfeeding a go.”

With just one fifth of mothers feeding their babies after the recommended six months, less than eight in ten new mothers breastfeed their babies from birth and two in five mothers under 24 never tried. The problem was more frequent among young mothers as age strongly contributes to this problem. Significant inequalities in breastfeeding were revealed by the research with only 32% of women in the routine and manual socio-economic group breastfeeding beyond six weeks, compared with 65% in managerial and professional groups.

The chief reason cited for this problem is the shortage of midwives and overcrowded maternity units. A survey in the UK found that approximately one in five younger women believed that breastfeeding would affect their body shape and one in three women had a preconceived notion that infant formula is very similar to breast milk. The survey also revealed that nearly all women believe while breastfeeding comes naturally to some women, others may need skill and practice to master it.

On the contrary, breastfeeding has a number of benefits for mums as well as babies. While formula milk is devoid of enzymes and antibodies present in breast milk, breastfeeding has many upsides as it actually uses up to 500 extra calories a day. Reducing the risks of breast cancer in mothers, breastfeeding encourages slow weight gain in babies making them less likely to be obese when they are older. It also protects babies against conditions like eczema and infections.

All Primary Care Trusts will be strictly monitored to measure the prevalence of breastfeeding at 6 to 8 weeks. With breast milk providing all necessary nutrients for a baby’s growth, the extra investment will help England improve their breastfeeding rates. Breastfeeding is recommended by the Department of Health for at least six months of an infant’s life.