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Nurses and midwives can help improve UKs breastfeeding rate

Friday 4th August 2017
The UKs breastfeeding rate currently stands at just 34 per cent, according to a new report from UNICEF and WHO. Image: Artranq via iStock
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Nurses and midwives have a key role to play in helping to improve breastfeeding rates in the UK, a new report suggests.

This week marks the 25th annual World Breastfeeding Week, which is championed by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). Together, they have published new data showing how many infants are breastfed across the globe.

Just over one-third (34 per cent) of babies born in the UK are exclusively breastfed for the first six months after birth, meaning the country has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. To put this into perspective, the breastfeeding rate in Norway - the country ranked highest in the report - comes in at almost three-quarters (71 per cent).

Although some mothers cannot breastfeed, for those that can there are myriad benefits for both their baby and themselves, such as helping to boost newborns' immune systems and creating a stronger bond between mother and baby.

With this in mind, Clare Livingstone, public health advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), commented: "There is no doubt that the UK - along with many other countries - needs to improve its breastfeeding rates.

"Investment in specialist midwives and high-quality postnatal support for breastfeeding must be a public health priority."

She drew on research carried out by the RCM in conjunction with Netmums in 2014 that showed many women do not feel they receive enough support with breastfeeding after giving birth.

In addition, many still feel that a stigma is attached to breastfeeding in public or don't know how to continue with it after going back to work following their maternity leave.

Nurses and midwives can help to support women with getting started with breastfeeding and in how they can continue to do so when they are out and about and when they return to work.

Ms Livingstone added: "By increasing breastfeeding rates, we will improve the future health of the nation in many ways. Preventing ill health is best value for NHS money, so why are we not investing more in it?"

Written by James Puckle

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