Nurses and midwives have an important role to play in encouraging an increase in breastfeeding among new mothers who are able to do so.
This is according to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which has commented on new figures from Public Health England showing breastfeeding rates in the UK, based on data returned by 141 of 150 local authorities throughout the UK.
The new statistics for 2015-16 show that 43.2 per cent of new mothers chose to breastfeed their newborns this year, marking a slight dip from 2014-15, when the figure came in at 43.8 per cent.
In addition, it was found that breastfeeding support appeared to vary significantly depending on location, with just 18 per cent of new mums in Knowsley, Merseyside opting for breast over bottle, compared to more than three-quarters (76.5 per cent) of mothers in Lewisham.
Jacque Gerrard, director of the RCM in England, commented: "This is a concern because there is a very strong and continually growing global body of evidence about the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby.
"There is a huge focus about promoting better health, and breastfeeding is fundamental to having a more healthy population, a better start in life for infants and children, leading to healthier adults."
She added that breastfeeding is the "bedrock" from which better health can arise, but acknowledged that the UK is not currently "doing as well as it can".
With this in mind, midwives and other nursing staff can play an important part in advising new mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding, and helping them to feed their babies in this way.
Ms Gerrard added that the RCM is continuing to support the UNICEF Call to Action, which urges the UK government to remove barriers to breastfeeding and encourage more new mothers to take it up.
Written by James Puckle
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