September 26, 2008

Boost Breastfeeding, Urge Yorkshire Experts

By Mike Waites

Figures show women most likely to use formula milk are young, white and from deprived backgrounds.Professor Mary Renfrew, of York University, and Prof David Hall, of Sheffield University, writing in the British Medical Journal, say the problem is creating a major public health and inequalities problem.They say breastfeeding improves the health of both babies and mothers and has also been shown to be the single most important preventive approach to saving children's lives. In spite of national and international policy initiatives 40 per cent of women in the United Kingdom who start to breastfeed stop by the time their baby is six weeks old, and only 20 per cent of infants are exclusively breastfed at six weeks.Yet evidence suggests the main reasons cited for stopping breastfeeding among them problems getting the baby to feed or women reporting that breastfeeding was painful could easily be remedied.The experts say health staff, in particular doctors including even specialists in treating children, are not adequately trained in giving advice on breastfeeding and often do not know how to position the baby so that feeding is effective and pain free. They call for sustained changes in policy, practice and education of NHS staff, particularly doctors, to increase the rates of initiation and length of exclusive breastfeeding."It's not rocket science but the effect on health outcomes will be profound and long lasting," they say.Key to this would be increasing the number of NHS trusts accredited to international standards for breastfeeding. But the experts said changes in health services were unlikely to succeed without changes in attitudes to breastfeeding in public and greater protection from misleading formula milk advertising.

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