World Breastfeeding Week: Academic calls for more support for breastfeeding mums

To mark the 22nd World Breastfeeding Week, a Swansea University academic has said that more should be done to support breastfeeding in the UK.

Dr Amy Brown

Dr Amy Brown, Programme Director for the MSc Child Public Health of  Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences says that while breastfeeding is known to protect the health of both mums and babies worldwide, breastfeeding rates in the UK are low. Although many new mums want to breastfeed, many stop in the early weeks and before they are ready.

One of the main reasons for such low rates is that women often don’t feel supported to breastfeed because those around them don’t understand how important it is, or as is unfortunately often the case, they receive negative comments if they breastfeed in public. This can impact on a new mum’s confidence and she may end up stopping breastfeeding before she is ready.

However, supporting and encouraging mothers to breastfeed should be a priority for everyone. This is because babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of lots of different illnesses including tummy bugs, respiratory infection, ear infections and obesity and mums who breastfeed are protected against cancers, osteoporosis and heart disease. This means that both mums and babies need fewer doctors appointments and are less likely to need to go into hospital which translates into less pressure on our NHS and millions of pounds savings for taxpayers every year in the UK.

Baby feeding research

It also means that new parents are less likely to need time off work when they return, as their baby is less likely to be ill, so breastfeeding actually benefits employers too. Indeed, this year one the theme of World Breastfeeding Work is to call for awareness and support for women to continue breastfeeding when they return to work. Employers who make some simple changes to support women to breastfeed can reap the benefits.

Misbha Khanum, Equality Officer at Swansea University agreed with the importance of supporting breastfeeding mothers at work and the small changes that can make a really difference on their return. She explained: "‘Swansea University is fully supportive of breastfeeding at work and offers a room designated for Nursing Mothers."

Dr Brown emphasized:  "Everyone should be supporting new mothers to breastfeed, even if this is just being accepting of the need to sometimes breastfeed in public. By having a positive attitude towards breastfeeding you are helping make the UK a healthier and better place for us all."

If you are an expectant or new mother, or perhaps partner or grandparent who is looking for support and information about breastfeeding in South West Wales, there are some fantastic breastfeeding support groups run by volunteers from Parents in Partnership South Wales and supported by local Health Professionals. You can find out more information about the groups and meeting times here