England and Wales must follow the lead of Scotland and Northern Ireland on breastfeeding policy and education, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).
In newly-published guidance to commemorate World Breastfeeding Week, the RCPCH called for practical advice on how long mothers should consider breastfeeding for and the health benefits of sticking with the practice to become more widely available in the UK.
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Cost savings to families and health services were also highlighted in the college’s recommendations as aspects which must be promoted to families in order to encourage mothers to breastfeed for longer.
The proposals were welcomed by the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV). ‘Breastfeeding is natural, but not all mums find it easy, and some mums cannot or choose not to do it, so we must respect that too,’ said executive director Cheryll Adams.
‘Mums often need support, and health visitors are one of the key healthcare professionals to help mothers establish breastfeeding through the universal health visiting service, but there is a need to educate the wider public and change the attitude and culture of society around it.’
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Governments in each UK nation need to ensure familiarity with breastfeeding is included in statutory education in schools, according to the RCPCH. They said the UK government should legislate for employers to support breastfeeding through parental leave, feeding breaks and facilities suitable for breastfeeding.
They also called on NHS to ensure the preservation of universal midwifery services.
Scotland and Northern Ireland NHS services already retain UNICEF’s Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation in all maternity units. The RCPCH is pushing for them to work to keep this and for England and Wales to aspire towards it.
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The iHV said it will be working with the RCPCH to support their campaign to improve breastfeeding in the UK to help women to continue breastfeeding beyond the first few weeks and help change societal attitudes by educating the wider public.
World Breastfeeding Week begins on 1 August.