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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 May, 2003, 23:45 GMT 00:45 UK
Breastfeeding benefits highlighted
Jane Elliott
BBC News Online health staff

Catriona Waddington with daughters Sula and Rona Brookes
'Work were very supportive'

To mark the start of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, the government has issued guidelines underlining the importance of breast milk for the first six months of an infant's life.

BBC News Online looks at the difficulties women can face in breastfeeding.

When Catriona Waddington started breastfeeding her second daughter she expected it all to be plain sailing.

She breastfed Sula, now two-and-a-half, until she was 16 months old. But Rona proved a tougher challenge.

For the first week, Rona refused to latch on and her weight started to fall.

Desperate for help Catriona, of Gloucestershire, called out the midwives at midnight.


At a week old, Rona finally started to feed and nine months later she is still thriving and still breastfeeding.

But Catriona admits the first week had been a struggle and that had she been less experienced she could have given up.

We know that nine out of 10 women who stop breastfeeding in the first six weeks are stopping before they want to
Belinda Phipps

"I started thinking I can do that and I have done that for a year with Sula, but I think I would have given up if I hadn't done it before.

"You get so desperate that I think if anybody had said that I was being cruel to her then I would have started bottle feeding.

"But everyone was very supportive."

Catriona's consultancy firm, which works for the Department of International Development, is also very supportive, helping her to breastfeed and ensuring her husband and child are flown out to any international conferences she attends.

But many women are not as lucky as Catriona.

Tackling embarrassment

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) says women need more support to encourage them to keep breastfeeding, which has been shown to protect against a wide range of infections and illness and reduce the risk of asthma and eczema.

And so for the first time in its history, the NCT is encouraging the general public, rather than breastfeeding mothers, to show support.

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the NCT, said everyone had a part to play in encouraging breastfeeding.

"We know that nine out of 10 women who stop breastfeeding in the first six weeks are stopping before they want to.

"Lack of good information and support is often a major contributing factor.

"To address this, the NCT has decided to change tack with this advertising campaign and appeal directly to everyone surrounding the breastfeeding mother, particularly youngsters."

She said that a study of 400 teenagers had shown that more than half said they would be embarrassed to see a woman breastfeed in front of them.

"Young people often feel that they don't have a role in breastfeeding, but we at the NCT want to make them sit up and listen.

"Their attitude can have enormous impact showing support can help build mothers' confidence, encouraging them to continue breastfeeding for as long as they chose and to ask for help should they need it."

Best start

To mark national breastfeeding week, starting 12 May, the government is recommending all mothers breastfeed for the first six months.

Public Health Minister Hazel Blears said: "We want to give a clear and consistent message to mothers, health professionals, and the general public.

"Breastfeeding for the first six months provides the best start for babies.

"It establishes a foundation for improving short and long-term health and in so doing can help to reduce health inequalities.

"We want to support women in their decision to breastfeed and help them continue to do so."



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