The UK ‘significantly lags’ behind other European countries on its rates of peer support for breastfeeding, according to research from Cardiff University.
A report published in the Maternal and Child Nutrition journal showed that peer support was only available in 56% of NHS Trust areas, remaining unavailable to mothers in many parts of the country.
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With results coming from 102 NHS organisations, the research showed that 80% of mums who stop breastfeeding earlier than six months were doing so before they wanted to, due to a lack of support to encourage and guide them in continuing.
Director of parent services for the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) Juliet Mountford said: ‘We’re disappointed but not surprised by the findings.
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‘We know that breastfeeding support is sadly inconsistent across the country and we’re constantly working to try to improve services and also to reach more parents from diverse backgrounds who want support, however they decide to feed their baby.’
In response to the results, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) called on the government to encourage women to initiate breastfeeding for at least six months after birth. Further calls were made for support to continuity of midwifery care in order to bolster a hopefully-increased rate of peer support.
RCM professional policy advisor Sarah Fox said: ‘The UK still lags often significantly behind many other European countries on breastfeeding rates. This is not good enough.
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‘The government should support women and their babies in the post natal period, and this support needs to include continuity of midwifery care as well as peer support. This survey suggests that this is still not the case, and this should be addressed urgently as there is a clear need to invest in postnatal services.
‘Investing in services to improve breastfeeding rates will mean healthier babies who will become healthier children and adults. This will ultimately improve the public health of the wider population and also save the NHS money. It is a false economy to not do this.’