New mums are being urged to give breastfeeding a go in a drive to raise awareness of the benefits for mothers and babies.
The UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe. Almost one third of women in England and Wales never try to breastfeed, compared to just two per cent in Sweden. Younger women are the least likely to breastfeed, with two in five mothers under 24 never trying.
A survey shows that serious misunderstandings may be behind the low rates in the UK. It found that:
More than one in three women believe that infant formula is very similar to or the same as breast milk. But formula milk doesn't contain the antibodies and enzymes present in breast milk;
One in five younger women believed breastfeeding would affect their body shape, when it actually uses up to 500 extra calories a day; and
Nearly all women believe breastfeeding comes naturally to some women and not to others. But breastfeeding is a skill that takes practice and women can get information and support.
Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson said that deciding to breastfeed, especially for the first six months, can make a major contribution to the baby's health and benefit 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!"
The Minister was speaking at the start of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week. Its 'Give it a go' theme aims to encourage those with the lowest rates, like young mums and those in disadvantaged areas, to start breastfeeding.