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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
More mothers choose breastfeeding
Breastfeeding mother
Breastfeeding is healthier for mother and baby
Increasing numbers of mothers are choosing to listen to the 'breast is best' message.

Government statistics show that over the last five years a significant number of pregnant women are switching from the bottle and choosing to feed their babies themselves.

The UK figures have risen from 66% to 69%, with the biggest increase in the low income households, where the rates are up 12%.

The government say the numbers of women smoking during pregnancy has also fallen from 23% to 18%.

This is good news for child health

Jacqui Smith health minister
Experts hope to reduce this figure to 15% by 2010 as women who smoke while pregnant are three times more likely to have a low birth weight baby.

Stillbirths and early infant deaths are also 30% more likely among mothers who smoke.

The government said it are particularly pleased with the statistics as breastfeeding has been proven to have significant health benefits for both mother and child.

Breastfed babies are five times less likely to be admitted to hospital with gastro-enteritis and 20% less likely to become obese as adults.

Health minister Jacqui Smith said the Infant Feeding Initiative, launched in 1999 with 773,000 for projects, had been instigated to promote breastfeeding and to tackle health inequalities.

"This is good news for child health. We know that increasing the number of women who breastfeed and reducing the number of women who smoke during pregnancy both produce substantial improvements in child health and reduce the risk of illness.

"The strategy has been targeted at low income households in an attempt to reduce the health inequalities that exist between richer and poorer families".

She added that it was "very encouraging to see that breastfeeding is up and smoking is down among women in these groups".

Improving services

She said the government was committed to improving child health and was currently drawing up a National Service Framework to improve maternity services and child health.

Obi Amadi, of the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association, said: "We are delighted to see the significant increase in breastfeeding rates in our key target groups.

"The adoption of our message 'breast is best', by mothers from those sections of the population who have been difficult to reach, indicates the success of the Infant Feeding Initiative and the many health professionals who have translated it into practical advice and action."

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, said: "It's encouraging that more women in the UK are starting to breastfeed, particularly those women from lower socio-economic groups who traditionally are less likely to breastfeed."

See also:

13 May 01 | Health
TV 'deters breast feeding'
16 Mar 01 | Health
Prolonged breast feeding warning
08 Feb 01 | Health
Breast milk 'reduces heart risk'
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