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Did you breastfeed your children? British mums ‘worst in world’ for breastfeeding, The Lancet medical journal study finds

11:29 29 January 2016

Stock image. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.

Stock image. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.

Only 0.5% of babies are breastfed until the age of 12 months, putting the UK at the bottom of a global league table, according to a new study.

Near-universal breastfeeding could also prevent an extra 20,000 annual deaths from breast cancer, experts claimed.

Scientists analysed data from 28 systematic reviews of previous research to show that breastfeeding has a dramatic effect on life expectancy both for children and mothers.

Woodbridge mother-of-three Ellen Widdup said she struggled with breastfeeding her children each time.

She said: “This study is telling us absolutely nothing new – and just serves to put more pressure on new mothers.

“We all know that breast is best when it comes to feeding our babies. It’s cheaper, more convenient and comes with added health benefits for mum and child.

“But what about mothers like me who struggle with it? Who don’t produce enough milk? Who have a medical issue? Or who simply find the whole thing distressing and uncomfortable?

“Reports like these only serve to fuel the guilt that is already heaped upon us when we fail to do what is supposed to come naturally.

“We all want what’s best for our kids. But a large part of motherhood is about making the right choices for your family.

“Stay at home or go to work, co-sleep or separate room, dummy or no dummy. And breastfeeding or formula feeding should be one of those choices too.

“I am not against breastfeeding. “But I do not think women who chose to formula feed – for whatever reason – should be demonised.”

The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, revealed that worldwide rates of breastfeeding were low, especially in high-income countries.

In the UK, fewer than 1% of babies were breastfed up to their first birthday. In Ireland, the figure was 2% and in Denmark 3%.

Lead researcher Professor Cesar Victora, from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, said: “Breastfeeding is one of the few positive health behaviours that is more common in poor than richer countries, and within poor countries is more frequent among poor mothers.”

He added: “There is a widespread misconception that breast milk can be replaced with artificial products without detrimental consequences.

“The evidence .. contributed by some of the leading experts in the field, leaves no doubt that the decision not to breastfeed has major long-term negative effects on the health, nutrition and development of children and on women’s health.”

Professor Russell Viner, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “The benefits of breastfeeding have been widely publicised yet .. it’s clear that efforts are still falling far too short and the grave reality is that this is costing children’s lives.

“Britain has one of the lowest levels of breastfeeding compared to other rich countries - we worry that things will get much worse with the Government’s proposed budget cuts.”

Janet Fyle, from the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This report underpins and reinforces why breastfeeding is the most appropriate method of providing nutrition for a baby. It also highlights the pressing need to promote and increase the uptake of breastfeeding in the UK and globally.”

In high-income countries, breastfeeding reduced the risk of sudden infant death by more than a third. It also had the potential to prevent about half of all infant cases of diarrhoea and a third of lung infections in low and middle-income countries.

In addition, breastfeeding increased intelligence, and there was some evidence that it protected against obesity and diabetes in later life.

For mothers, longer duration breastfeeding was said to reduce the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.


  • Waspie's wife... When I say choosing a bottle. I mean that powdered baby milk was being over promoted in ads and encouraging it more, the balance went wrong. It was being added to baby packs when you left hospital in the 70's I can remember. I also agree that mums shouldn't feel they have failed if they can't breast feed. I think the advertising is the right balance now.

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    Saturday, January 30, 2016

  • Waspie's wife ...it was in the early 70's that page 3 came into households and the idea breast was for titillation was growing and has spread, to such a degree, many young generation think that breastfeeding isn't normal! All I know is we grew up knowing mums, aunties breast fed, nipped into next room and some were bottle fed.. The rise in the milk token for poorer families and a push in advertising for tinned babymilk was on the rise in70's, which has now been stopped, except for follow on milk, because too may were choosing bottle.

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    Saturday, January 30, 2016

  • It's a sad state of affairs when breasts can still be used to marketsell virtually anything and yet when they are used for their primary purpose, prudes abound amongst men and, surprisingly, women. It's great if you can do it and of course no woman should be made to feel bad if they can't. The sooner we accept it as a normal practice the better.

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    Friday, January 29, 2016

  • The choice to breastfeed or not is just that - a choice - and a choice for the mother to make and no one else. Pressuring mothers to breast feed is wrong on all levels. What a baby needs is a mum who is happy and has plenty of support in whatever choice she makes. The ' evidence' about babies who are breastfed does not always apply. I have a child who was solely breastfed until the age of 8 months who subsequently developed asthma, eczema, had every childhood disease and struggles with weight problems whereas the other child - breastfed for only a few days for various reasons - has no weight issues and no allergies. I'm not any closer to or love my breastfed child more, they are both loved equally, so please let new mums make their own choices without pressure from anyone. Advice is a lot different to pressure. And yes, if you do breastfeed then I agree with Sandie, when out and about it can and should be done discretely.

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    Friday, January 29, 2016

  • Waspie's wife...Yes breastfed both of mine in the 70's. It was great. I was taught in hospital, a 9 day stay for first child, home after i day for the second, an old hand by then. Times were different, there was no pressure on returning to work, mums at home were valued. I agree with Sandy, I never breast fed in public. When visiting family as it was cold upstairs, used to sit in a quiet corner, with a chair turned away or in another room,with a terry nappy over my shoulder, no disposable nappies and wore appropriate tops. Breastfeeding was a quiet, cuddly time with babies, mother and baby bonding. I fed both for over 6 months.

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    Friday, January 29, 2016

  • Sadly in my opinion this modern " campaign" of sitting in the most prominent position in pubs, cafes and restaurants exposing yourself to all and sundry saying look at me I am breast feeding my baby and it is my right to do this when ever and where ever I want ! Has had a very negative result in encouraging some "shall I , sharnt I" Mums - they feel they have to follow this trend instead of sensitively and privately feeding their baby - and yes this comes from a mother of two who fed both her babies but does not feel I had to advertise that fact in your face ! I too feel very sorry for Mums who cannot for various reasons breast feed and are made to feel dreadful because of that.

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    Friday, January 29, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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