Break down barriers to breastfeeding in the UK | Letters | Life and style

The evidence that breastfeeding has long-lasting benefits for infant and mother is clear. Further, though some women are unable to breastfeed and some choose not to, with the right support, the vast majority of women are able to breastfeed successfully.

So why is it that over 73% of mothers in England initiate breastfeeding but by six to eight weeks this figure has dropped to just 43%? To give this some perspective, in Norway the figure at six months is 71%.

The problem is that there are multiple barriers to breastfeeding. Hard work by Unicef in delivering its Baby Friendly Initiative has improved initiation, but sustaining breastfeeding remains a challenge for the UK.

This will not change of its own accord; schools can include knowledge about breastfeeding in personal, health and social education; healthcare services can deliver practical support – with the right resources in place – for first-time mums.

The government must take the lead on ensuring that terms and conditions of employment do not deter women who wish to breastfeed. And above all, social attitudes towards breastfeeding must improve.

Women, their partners and families must feel comfortable about breastfeeding as a normal, natural part of everyday life.

In short, the solutions lie with all of us.
Professor Neena Modi President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Alison Thewlis MP Chair, all-party parliamentary group on infant feeding and health inequalities
Sue Ashmore Programme director, Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative
Justine Roberts Founder, Mumsnet
Caroline Lee-Davey Chief executive, Bliss
Cathy Warwick Chief executive, Royal College of Midwives
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners
Janet Davies Chief executive and general secretary, Royal College of Nursing
Professor Lesley Regan President, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Dr Cheryll Adams Executive director, Institute of Health Visiting
Jess Figueras Chair of trustee board, NCT
Dr Asha Kasliwal President, Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare
Clare Meynell and Helen Gray Joint coordinators, World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) UK Working Group
Emma Pickett Chair, Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
Shereen Fisher Chief executive, The Breastfeeding Network
Zoe Faulkner Chair, Lactation Consultants of Great Britain
Eden Anderson Chair, La Leche League GB

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