This week is World Breastfeeding Week, an annual celebration that aims to promote and encourage breastfeeding as one of the most effective ways to improve the health of babies around the world.
Breastfeeding is proven to provide the little ones with the essential nutrients required for growth and development in their first months of life. It is also another opportunity for mother and baby to bond through skin to skin contact.
However, it can also be very challenging and for a variety of reasons, many women are unable to or choose not to breastfeed their baby. Did you know that the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world? One reason for this might be the cuts made in public health funding in the past few years, leading to a lack of professional help and emotional support needed to guide new mothers through the breastfeeding process, helping to boost their breastfeeding experience.
The UK government (in line with guidance from the WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for around the first 6 months of life, however from the 68% of women in the UK that starts breastfeeding, only 48% continue beyond 6- 8 weeks, which is far below the recommended 6 months.
In order to greatly improve breastfeeding rates, we need to not just understand what causes the rates to be low but to support and empower more women by helping to change the culture and the politics around breastfeeding, while also making sure to respect women's personal choices.
There should be no judgement made of mothers who chose not to breastfeed or who only breastfeed for a short period of time. However, people should be educated on the benefits of breastfeeding and mothers who would like to continue breastfeeding but find it challenging, should be given more emotional and practical support. It is also very important that negative attitudes towards mothers who breastfeed in public are challenged, so that mothers feel safe and comfortable to feed their babies when and where they need to.
Hang in there mums, you are doing a great job. Happy World Breastfeeding Week!