New Woman's hour poll suggests regional variation in infant feeding attitudes and choices - 31 January 2019
This week a poll by BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour and BBC Radio Sheffield asked 1,162 women aged 18-40 across the UK who had a baby in the past decade about their experience of feeding their babies from birth up to six months.
The research, carried out by London polling company ComRes, found that half of mothers who choose to breastfeed felt like they let their baby down when they struggled to breastfeed (50%). Two thirds (66%) of them said it was one of the best parts of being a mother but half (49%) also said it was one of the toughest.
The number of women from Northern Ireland responding to the survey was too low to draw any conclusions, however it did highlight that there are variations from region to region in the UK on how we value the health benefits of breastfeeding, women’s intention to breastfeed in the first instance, feeding in public and how they felt about formula feeding their babies.
The back drop to this research is the substantial variation in breastfeeding rates in the four nations of the UK with initiation rates in 2010 highest in England at 83%, compared with 74% in Scotland, 71% in Wales, and 64% in Northern Ireland. Exclusive breastfeeding at six weeks was 24% in England and 22% in Scotland, compared to 17% in Wales and 13% in Northern Ireland (Infant Feeding Survey 2010).
Speaking yesterday at a meeting of the Breastfeeding Community of Practice meeting in Queen’s University Belfast, Dr. Jennifer Hanratty, founder of Breastival said,
“While no conclusions can be drawn about the data in Northern Ireland due to the low number of respondents, in the absence of an Infant Feeding survey it provides a current snap shot of attitudes across the UK.
In Northern Ireland we have the lowest breastfeeding rates in the UK which has implications for public health but individual women cannot be burdened with changing our culture. That's why Breastival exists - to support individual families who choose to breastfeed so that they don't feel so alone and to get the message to the public that supporting breastfeeding is good for all of us. We can all play a role in supporting families who choose human milk for human babies.”
The Breastfeeding Community of Practice has been set up at Queens which aims to bring together research, policy and practice and a network of people who are keen to address the issue of low breastfeeding rates in Northern Ireland.
Dr. Hanratty continued,
“We would like to call on the Department of Health and relevant departments across the UK to reintroduce the Infant Feeding survey. If we are serious about addressing our low breastfeeding rates, we need to get a better sense of the incidence, prevalence, and duration of breastfeeding and other feeding practices adopted and any regional variations. This is vital if we want to develop policies or carry out research that targets the particular barriers faced by families”
Breastival, which is coming into its third year, is a fun-filled family festival that offers support, learning and a chance to meet other families. With talks and workshops for expectant parents, new families, experienced parents and grandparents and supporters, everyone can find something to enjoy.
Breastival aims to normalise what has sometimes been a controversial subject in Northern Ireland. Despite the NHS and World Health Organisation recommendation that children be breastfed until the age of two and beyond, less than 7% of children in Northern Ireland are breastfed past six months.
A Politics of Milk panel discussion took place at Breastival last August and heard from two MPs and four MLAs from six parties in Northern Ireland and was chaired by the Royal College of Midwives. All the politicians were in agreement with the need for legislation to protect and support breastfeeding in Northern Ireland.
Breastival is hosting two events in February as part of the NI Science Festival. ‘The Science of Human Milk’ will take place on Saturday 16 February, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm at The Mac. It will look at the fascinating and wondrous properties of human milk. From immune-boosting compounds and stem cells to pain killing metabolites, human milk contains hundreds of unique ingredients.
Also on Saturday at The Mac ‘Why NI Doesn’t Breastfeed’ will take place from 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm and will hear from Professor Amy Brown and explore why NI has such low breastfeeding rates, why it should matter to everyone and what you can do about it.
(picture:The Big Global Latch On, Breastival, Ulster Museum August 2018)Tagged with: advice for mum, advice for parents, baby health, breast fed babies, breastfeeding, breastival, formula fed babies, latch on, research into infant feeding, womans hour poll
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