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Breastfeeding

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Introduction

Breastfeeding is good for babies and is recommended for about the first 6 months of a baby's life. The health benefits of breastfeeding babies are considered to be; reduced chance of diarrhoea and vomiting, fewer chest and ear infections, not as much chance of being constipated or developing eczema and less likelihood of becoming obese. The health benefits of breastfeeding babies for mothers are; reduced risk of developing certain ovarian and breast cancers, a lower risk of developing diabetes and hip problems in later life1.

Facts and Figures

Breastfeeding Initiation

Figure 1 measures the percentage of mothers who give their babies' breast milk in the first 48 hours after delivery. The numerator is the number of mothers initiating breastfeeding and the denominator is the total number of maternities. The chart compares the rate of breastfeeding initiation in Blackpool, the North West and England. The breastfeeding initiation rate has risen over the five year period illustrated in the chart but remains significantly lower than the North West and England rates. The 2014/15 Blackpool rate is 61.5% compared to 64.6% in the North West and 74.3% in England as a whole.

Figure 1 - Breastfeeding Initiation 2010/11 - 2014/15

Figure1
Source: Public Health Outcomes Framework

Breastfeeding at 6 to 8 weeks

This is the percentage of infants that are totally or partially breastfed at age 6-8 weeks. Totally breastfed is defined as infants who are exclusively receiving breast milk at 6-8 weeks of age - that is, they are not receiving formula milk, any other liquids or food. Partially breastfed is defined as infants who are currently receiving breast milk at 6-8 weeks of age and who are also receiving formula milk or other liquids or food. Figure 2 compares the rate of breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks after birth in Blackpool with the North West and England. The rate is significantly lower than the North West and England rates. The 2011/12 Blackpool rate is 26.6% compared to 33.1% in the North West and 47.2% in England as a whole.

PLease note: Due to data quality issues breastfeeding prevalence at 6-8 weeks for Blackpool for the financial years 2013/14 and 2014/15 has not yet been published by NHS England2.

Figure 2 - Breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks after birth 2010/11 - 2012/13

Figure2
Source: Public Health Outcomes Framework

Breastfeeding Drop-Off

The drop off rate is the difference between breastfeeding initiation from birth, and the number of mothers that continue to breastfeed at 6-8 weeks. Figure 3 shows that the 2012/13 breastfeeding drop-off rate for Blackpool mothers is 48% which is similar to the North West rate of 47%, but higher than the England rate of 36%.

Figure 3 - Breastfeeding Drop-Off Rate 2010/11 - 2012/13

Figure3
Source: Public Health Outcomes Framework

Barriers to Breastfeeding

The US Surgeon General's report Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding identified a number of barriers to breastfeeding:

    • Lack of knowledge
    • Social norms
    • Poor family and social support
    • Embarrassment
    • Lactation problems
    • Employment and child care

National and local strategies

    • Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2008) - Guidelines cover advice and information to be given to women during pregnancy, including antenatal and newborn screening programmes, screening for clinical conditions such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, screening for infections, lifestyle advice, provision of care and management of pregnancy symptoms and breastfeeding.
    • The Healthy Child Programme (HCP) (Department of Health, 2009) - Aims to increased rates of breastfeeding initiation and continuation, which will contribute specifically to improving breastfeeding and obesity outcomes.
    • Maternal and child nutrition (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2008) - Guidelines cover advice and information regarding breastfeeding.

 


[1] UNICEF, The Baby Friendly Initiative, Health benefits of breastfeeding, [Accessed Feb 2016]

[2] NHS England Maternity and Breastfeeding, [Accessed Feb 2016]