A survey published today by The UK Department of Health for National Breastfeeding Awareness Week (9 - 15 May) shows that serious misunderstandings may be stopping women, particularly young women, from breastfeeding.
Although the benefits of breastfeeding are well known, the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe. Almost a third of women (29%) in England and Wales never try to breastfeed compared to 2% in Sweden. Younger women in particular are less likely to breastfeed with over 40% of mothers under 24 never trying. The new survey of 1000 women shows:
Myth: Over a third (34%) of women believe that modern infant formula milks are very similar or the same as breast milk
Fact: Infant formula milk does not contain the antibodies, living cells, enzymes or hormones present in breastmilk. Breastmilk is designed for each individual baby and changes over time whereas infant formula milk is designed for every baby.
Myth: A fifth (20%) of young women aged 16-24 years believe that breastfeeding will ruin the shape of their breasts/body
Fact: Breastfeeding uses up 500 extra calories a day. It helps the womb return back to normal and does not affect the shape of breasts in the long term
Myth: Over two thirds (67%) of women believe that the general public find breastfeeding in public unacceptable
Fact: Most people (84%)think it's fine for mothers to breastfeed their babies discreetly in public/in front of others (5)
Myth: Nearly all (95%) women believe that breastfeeding comes naturally to some and not to others
Fact: Breastfeeding is a skill and takes practice. It is important that women feel able to ask for help.
Myth: Nearly all women (87%) believe that some women don't produce enough milk to be able to breastfeed.
Fact: Virtually all mothers can breastfeed provided they have accurate information and support. (4)
Minister for Public Health, Melanie Johnson, says: "Breastfeeding is a major public health issue. A decision to breastfeed, especially if sustained for the first six months of a baby’s life, can make a major contribution to infant health and development as well as benefiting mums.
"Our message is a simple one – if you are an expectant or new mum don’t let these myths discourage you from giving breastfeeding a go!"
Give it a Go is the theme of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week this year which focusses on encouraging those with the lowest breastfeeding rates such as the young and those in disadvantaged areas to start breastfeeding. Among events planned are a series of evening presentations at Mothercare stores where health professionals will explain the benefits of breastfeeding and answer questions.
Breastfeeding advocates include film and TV personalities Sadie Frost, Fiona Phillips, Davina McCall and Donna Air who says: “Because Freya is my first child I was extra cautious to give her the best start in life. Breastfeeding was a great way to help her avoid allergies and infections. I am so pleased I made the decision to breastfeed. It has proved tough at times, but is also very rewarding for both myself and Freya.”
Davina McCall agrees: “Breastfeeding isn't always easy. Both times I've nearly given up at six weeks but with some encouragement and reassurance I've persevered and I'm glad I did. It's a wonderful experience and I always feel sad about stopping.”