Nearly 50% of breastfeeding mothers stop after two months, according to new data from Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England.
In a survey of 500 mothers published on 23 March, 73% said they breastfed their newborn child, but this figure drops to 44% by six to eight weeks. PHE recommends breastfeeding for the first six months after birth, saying evidence shows the right support helps mothers breastfeed longer.
PHE chief nurse Viv Bennett said: ‘Breastfeeding, while natural, is something all mums and their babies learn by doing. Mums tell us, after the first few weeks, breast feeding becomes easier, so proper support is crucial at this time which is where our bot is designed to help.
More than half of mothers surveyed were concerned breastfeeding meant they would not be able to tell if their baby was getting too much or not enough milk. Many felt people might assume they need a special diet to breastfeed. Nearly three in ten worried breastfeeding could mean their baby might not be getting the right nutrients, indicating why mothers may stop breastfeeding at this early point.
Breastfeeding boosts a baby’s ability to fight illness and infection. Babies who are not breastfed are more likely to get diarrhoea and respiratory infections. It also lowers a mother’s risk of ovarian and breast cancer and burns around 500 calories a day.
More than half (63%) of mothers polled said they would feel embarrassed breastfeeding in the presence of people they don’t know, 59% felt the same about their partner’s family and 49% felt it about siblings and wider family members.
‘We can all help women feel comfortable breastfeeding their baby wherever they are,' added Ms Bennett. 'Creating a wider culture of encouragement and support will help make a mother’s experience all the more positive.’
PHE is now launching the Start4Life marketing programme to help parents and expecting parents to adopt ‘healthy behaviours’ at an early stage. They have unveiled a ‘chat bot’ on Facebook called Breastfeeding Friend which can provide advice immediately over the online messaging service.