Breastfeeding provides the healthiest start for babies and mothers, but although the rates of breastfeeding initiation in the UK continue to increase, around a fifth of babies are never breastfeed, and these are disproportionately the babies of mothers who are poor or very young. Although most mothers do start to breastfeed their babies, by the age of one week only around a third of babies are exclusively breastfed.
Without the necessary advice and support many women suffer significant pain when breastfeeding, both physical and emotional, before they stop. Our DVD shows parents how to get started breastfeeding and provide practical answers to the common problems.
Alison Baum, CEO of Best Beginnings, says: “Many poor health outcomes stem from the care, nutrition and environmental factors that impact us from the time of conception to age of three. One of the best ways to improve the health of those facing greatest disadvantage is to ensure we reach parents within this critical time frame. There are a number of health gaps we will focus on, however, as a small charity with a UK wide mission we chose to focus on breastfeeding in our first three years. There’s no doubt that breastfeeding has a significant role to play in closing the health gap.”
Breastfeeding lends immunity from the mother – while the baby’s own immune system starts to adapt and develop. As baby grows the constituents of the breast milk alter to mirror the baby’s needs. Nature doesn’t have a fixed formula – it responds to the changing needs of the infant and works in harmony with the baby’s development. Thus, “Infants who are not breastfed, for whatever reason” advises the World Health Organisation “should receive special attention from the health and social welfare system since they constitute a risk group.”
Yet the risks are not reflected by the numbers of mums breastfeeding in the UK – we have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe.
The evidence is compelling. Breastfed babies from younger and poorer families have health outcomes better than or similar to formula fed children in the wealthiest group. Not only does breastfeeding lower the risk of childhood obesity and diabetes, it also lowers the risk of life threatening gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses. And it keeps on giving protection – by lowering risk of cardiovascular disease in later life and helping to prevent babies losing their mothers to breast cancer.
But the reality is that most parents don’t get vital information and support to start breastfeeding or to continue as long as they wish. Without the necessary advice and support many mums suffer significant pain, both physical and emotional, before they stop.