Compared to artificial feeding, research shows breastfeeding has health benefits for infants, children and mothers. Encouraging breastfeeding is therefore an important public health measure to protect and improve the health of these groups:
- Breastfed babies are less likely than non-breastfed babies to suffer from gastro-intestinal and respiratory infections requiring hospitalisation
- Non-breastfed babies are also at greater risk of developing conditions such as ear infections, asthma and eczema and other allergies with links
- Evidence (M. Quigley, 2013) of longer term effects suggests infants who are not breastfed tend to have higher blood pressure, cholesterol levels in adulthood, and experience at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Mothers who breastfeed are at lower risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer and more likely to return to pre-pregnancy weight (BMA Board of Science, 2009)
Increases in breastfeeding are expected to reduce illness in young children, have health benefits for the infant and the mother and result in cost savings to the NHS through reduced hospital admission for the treatment of infection in infants.
Current national and international guidance recommends exclusive breastfeeding for newborns (breast milk only and no other liquids or solids) for the first six months of infancy.
Key inequalities and risk factors
National data from the eighth national infant feeding survey in 2010 states infant feeding patterns are strongly influenced by:
- maternal age
- educational attainment
- socio-economic factors
- father support
Facts, figures, trends
Data from the Children and Young People’s Health Benchmarking Tool shows that in 2014/15, 82.2% of new mothers in Bracknell Forest initiated breastfeeding within 48 hours of giving birth representing a stable trend over the last 5 periods (accessed 3 January 2017):
This is a slight decrease on 2013/14 at 82.6% but significantly better than the south east and England averages over the last three years. Comparison with previous years should be done with caution as 2013/14 figures are based on a mother's postcode and not on the provider/hospital location. In addition, although included here, figures for 2012/13 and earlier were for Berkshire East as a whole.
Breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks
Nationally, the England percentage figure for breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks has fallen year on year from 47.2% in 2011/12 to 43.8% in 2014/15 (accessed 3 January 2017). In Bracknell Forest, the 2011 Breaking the Cycle: a strategy for reducing child poverty in Bracknell Forest states that breastfeeding rates at 6-8 weeks in Bracknell have risen in the wards on the outskirts of the town. In central wards, however, these rates have remained at lower levels.
The latest statistically valid data (Q4, 2015-16) for Bracknell Forest showed that the prevalence of breastfeeding at 6 – 8 weeks was 53.3%, which continues to be significantly higher than the aggregate figure for England (43.7%).
Want to know more?
Evidence indicates that early support within the first two weeks of giving birth is crucial if breastfeeding is to be sustained for the recommended period of time. This is particularly important for mothers from low income groups. Support for breastfeeding needs to be sustained over the early weeks after birth.
Antenatal care for healthy women) (Nice, 2016) - partially updates and replaces antenatal care: routine care for healthy pregnant women NICE guideline CG6 (published October 2003 and covers identifying women in need of additional support, information provision, lifestyle considerations, screening and sexual health
Baby Friendly Initiative – a host of advice and information for women and professionals to support initiation and continuation of breast feeding in the early weeks after birth.
Commissioning infant feeding services: a toolkit for local authorities – (Public Health England and Unicef UK, 2016) - guidance to support the commissioning of evidence-based interventions to improve breastfeeding rates across England. The toolkit includes infographics which highlight the key issues, good practice guidance for commissioners and guidance on effective data collection, monitoring and reporting.
Dynamic Report for Bracknell Forest (National Child and Maternal Health Intelligence Network) – gives high level statistical data and analysis on Breastfeeding (prevalence at 6 to 8 weeks)
Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for public health in England (HM Government, 2010) - the Government strategy which highlights the importance of ‘starting well’ through early intervention and prevention such as breastfeeding support.
Maternity and Early Years – making a good start to family life (HM Government, 2012) - although an archived resource, the document nevertheless presents the need for good health and healthy lifestyles, family support, access to local services and community resources for mother and baby throughout both pregnancy and a child’s early years. The government’s main objective is to ensure that every woman and family can approach pregnancy in a positive and confident way.
Maternity Matters (Department of Health, 2007) - sets out a strategy that aims to provide the best possible care for expectant mothers and fathers, as well as the child, by ensuring that local maternity service provision is of the highest level of quality and accessibility.
Maternal and Child Nutrition: Improving the nutrition of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children in low-income households (NICE, update 2014) – for professionals and is targeted at reducing inequalities for women on a low income or from a disadvantaged group.
Supporting public health; children, young people and families (PHE, updated 2016) - guidance to support local authorities and providers in the commissioning and delivery of services across the highest impact health and wellbeing outcomes for children and young people through the 0-19 healthy child programme.
The Healthy Child Programme and the first five years of life (HCP) (Department of Health, 2009) - places significant emphasis on the achievement of increased rates of breastfeeding initiation and continuation, which will contribute specifically to improving breastfeeding & obesity outcomes.
This page was created on 10 April 2014 and updated on 5 January 2017. Next review due December 2017.
Cite this page:
Bracknell Forest Council. (2017). JSNA – Breastfeeding. Available at: jsna.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/starting-well/newborn/breastfeeding (Accessed: dd Mmmm yyyy)
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