Just one in 200 women in the UK are still breastfeeding their child one year after birth according to a study published in The Lancet.
In a review of 28 papers funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 81% of mothers in the UK had breastfed their child soon after birth, with this number falling to 34% at six months and 0.5% at 12 months. This compares to 9% in France and Canada, 23% in Germany, 27% in the USA, and 99.4% in Senegal.
‘Breastfeeding is one of the most important markers of an individual’s future health and wellbeing, as it confers important health benefits,’ said Janet Fyle, the Royal College of Midwifery’s (RCM) professional policy advisor. ‘This is why health services need to make greater efforts to encourage new mothers to breastfeed and for longer. This can be facilitated through better support, considerate maternity leave and strengthening policies and legislative framework that enables women to breastfeed when out and about.’
Alongside the health benefits to mother and baby, the study identified significant economic savings linked to breastfeeding. For example, the authors calculated that boosting breastfeeding rates for infants below six months of age to 45% in the UK would save the country £29million. The RCM has said that countries can significantly improve breastfeeding practices by scaling up known interventions, policies and programmes that have been identified in the paper, such as patient education, training for midwives and other healthcare professionals, and media campaigns.
‘Breastfeeding lays the foundations for an individual’s future health and wellbeing and brings great benefits for society as a whole in terms of reduced spending on ill health,’ added Ms Fyle. ‘This also highlights the importance of good postnatal support and access to midwives to give women the help they need to establish and continue breastfeeding.’