Midwifery services should be invested in to support women to breastfeed, a leading midwife has said, after figures released by NHS England showed that there has been a constant fall in the number of women breastfeeding.
The figures show that in the last three months of 2014-15 43.8% infants were being breastfed by their mothers when they attended the standard six to eight week check. This is a fall from 45.8% in 2013-14 and 47.2% in 2012-13, while five years ago in 2011-12, 47.2% of infants were being breastfed by their mothers.
Janet Fyle, the RCM's professional policy advisor suggested that the fall observed in the last year was down to a lack of resources for midwives and cuts to schemes supporting women to breastfeed. Speaking to Independent Nurse, she said: 'Just like how there is inequality in access to healthcare, there is inequality in breastfeeding. Different areas have different rates of breastfeeding, and we need to ensure that women are breastfeeding their children. So we need more midwives to do this.'
NHS England stated that infants who are not breastfed are more likely to have infections in the short-term such as gastroenteritis, respiratory and ear infections. Breastfeeding also makes a difference to health outcomes when the infant ages, as research cited by NHS England has found that infants who are not breastfed are more likely to become obese in later childhood, develop type 2 diabetes, and tend to have higher levels of blood pressure and blood cholesterol in adulthood. Breastfeeding is also beneficial for the mother, as it is associated with a reduction in the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Ms Fyle added: 'What we have to understand is that breastfeeding is a choice. Mothers must be provided with accurate, unbiased information on breastfeeding by midwives, to improve rates of breastfeeding.'