A newly released UK survey has found more new mums are opting to breastfeed at birth, but just one percent reach the recommended goal of exclusive breastfeeding to six months.
The UK-based Infant Feeding Survey has just released its 2010 results based on a poll of more than 10,000 women. It found that 81 in every 100 new mums start off breastfeeding, a figure that is up from 76 percent when the survey was last conducted in 2005.
However, after one week less than half of all new mothers are still exclusively breastfeeding. And only one in 100 manage the full six months of exclusive breastfeeding (as recommended by the World Health Organization), the NHS Information Centre found.
When looking at exclusive breastfeeding trends, the report found that of the 69 percent of mothers doing so at birth, just 46 percent continued after one week and by six weeks the figure was 23 percent.
This exclusive breastfeeding rate has remained static for years in the UK, despite worldwide policy developments to improve support and information provided to mothers encouraging them to continue exclusive breastfeeding.
In Australia, the ‘breast is best’ message seems to be reaching more new mums, with 92 percent initiating breastfeeding at birth.
And while Australia’s overall breastfeeding rates have also remained static for the past decade, according to the Australia National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015 report, there is a similarly sharp drop-off by six months, with just 14 percent of babies being exclusively breastfed to this point.
While four out of five UK mothers polled said they were aware of the health benefits to their baby, the survey found that they were less likely to try initially or continue breastfeeding if they were given formula as a baby and their social network did not support them to breastfeed.
Common reasons given for stopping breastfeeding were problems with the baby rejecting the breast or not latching on properly, having painful breasts or nipples and insufficient milk.
Australian research has found similar circumstances are strongly influential on new mums’ decisions around breastfeeding uptake and duration. Another important factor in breastfeeding success, according to experts such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association, is how soon after birth the mother had skin-to-skin contact with her baby.
The Infant Feeding Survey
found “breastfeeding initiation was indeed much higher for babies exposed to skin-to-skin contact”, with those who had contact within 12 hours of birth being 23 percent more likely to breastfeed than those who had no contact.
The World Health Organization recommends placing babies in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately following birth to encourage mothers to recognise when their babies are ready to feed and to establish the breastfeeding relationship.
For more information or support with breastfeeding, contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268.
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