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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Mothers stop breast feeds too soon
Mother breastfeeding
Black and Asian mothers breastfeed the most
A fifth of mothers who start breastfeeding stop within the first two weeks, according to figures.

Although 69% of mothers initially breastfeed, 21% of these stop within the first fortnight and another 36% within the next six weeks.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends women to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months.

Health experts blame a lack of support for women choosing to stop breastfeeding.

A survey of infant feeding by the department of health showed that the numbers of women breastfeeding had only gone up by 3% since the last study in 1995 despite repeated warnings about the benefits.

We need to make breastfeeding as unremarkable as reading a newspaper

Belinda Phipps, of the NCT


The greatest increase was in the lowest socio-economic group, where the numbers of women breastfeeding rose from 50% to 59%.

The figures also revealed that just over a third of mothers in the UK smoked in the year before their pregnancy and a fifth continued to smoke during it.

The benefits of breastfeeding include:

  • Boosting immunity: The baby receives the mother's antibodies to help it fight infection
  • Less likelihood that the baby suffers constipation, diarrhoea and wind
  • More protection against gastroenteritis, childhood diabetes, allergies like eczema and chest and ear infections
  • Reduction in the risk of the mother contracting early breast or ovarian cancer and fracturing her hips The study showed clear cultural differences between the breastfeeding rates of mothers from different ethnic backgrounds.

    Only 67% of white mothers breastfeed initially, compared to 95% of black mothers and 87% of mothers from an Asian background.


    The study also revealed that mothers are now introducing solids later, which has been proved to have beneficial effects.

    In 2000 just 24% of mothers gave their babies solids before the age of three months, compared with 56% in 1995.

    A spokesperson for the Department of Health said it was committed to increasing support for breastfeeding women.

    "The Department aims to ensure women are able to make an informed choice about how they feed their baby and receive the support they need if they choose to breastfeed.

    To coincide with Breastfeeding Awareness Week the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) launched a poster campaign to try and encourage more women to breast feed.

    Breast feeding
    This poster is designed to boost breastfeeding

    Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the NCT said she was "disappointed" with the latest trends and blamed a lack of professional support.

    "We know that many of these women give up breastfeeding before they want to.

    "Nine out of 10 women who gave up breastfeeding within 6 weeks of birth would have liked to have breastfed for longer.

    "It is clear that UK women are still not getting the information and support they need from healthcare professionals to breastfeed their babies.

    "We need to make breastfeeding as unremarkable as reading a newspaper, so that more women are able to follow their instincts and breastfeed wherever and whenever their baby needs to be fed."

    Poster campaign

    The NCT has launched a campaign showing mother and model 22-year-old Shanelle Claridge breastfeeding her daughter in a London cafe.

    She said: "For me breastfeeding was the most natural and obvious choice to make. I am happy to breastfeed wherever I am, whether it's shopping or at a restaurant with my friends.

    "Breastfeeding is the best possible start I could give my baby, and I think it is important to encourage other new mums to give it a try."

    The NCT breastfeeding line has counsellors available each day between 8am-10pm on 0870 444 8708.

    The BBC's Neil Bennett
    "The picture varies between social groups and different parts of the UK"
    See also:

    13 May 01 | Health
    TV 'deters breast feeding'
    16 Mar 01 | Health
    Prolonged breast feeding warning
    18 May 00 | Medical notes
    Breast vs bottle
    08 Feb 01 | Health
    Breast milk 'reduces heart risk'
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