Women are put off breastfeeding by misconceptions despite much publicised benefits, a survey has found.
Breast milk is highly nutritious
Britain's breastfeeding rate is among the lowest in Europe, according to the Department of Health (DoH), which carried out the study.
Of 1,000 women questioned in England and Wales 29% had never tried to breastfeed compared to 2% in Sweden.
Women were misinformed about people's attitudes to breast feeding in public and about the health benefits, it said.
A total of 64% mistakenly thought people found breastfeeding in public unacceptable, the study found.
More than a third of those questioned thought infant formula milks were the same or similar to breast milk, found the survey released as part of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week.
But formula products do not contain the hormones, antibodies and enzymes present in breast milk naturally tailored for each baby.
One in five women, aged 16 to 24, believed breastfeeding would ruin their figure.
And 40% of this group said they had never tried to breastfeed.
But experts say breastfeeding can help women get back into shape as it burns up to 500 extra calories a day, as well as helping the womb return to normal after giving birth.
While almost two-thirds of women thought others would find it unacceptable for them to breastfeed in public, the DoH found 84% of the public were not offended by "discreet" public feeding.
Nearly all the women questioned thought breastfeeding was something which came naturally to some mothers.
But experts say it takes skill and practice.
Public health minister Melanie Johnson said: "A decision to breastfeed, especially if sustained for the first six months of a baby's life, can make a major contribution to infant health and development as well as benefiting mums.
"Our message is a simple one - if you are an expectant or new mum, don't let these myths discourage you from giving it a go."
Davina McCall has breastfed both her children
The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) is supporting the campaign.
Policy research officer Rosemary Dodds said: "It is worrying that so many misconceptions about breastfeeding exist, as this means that many new babies are not getting the healthiest start in life".
The campaign, which aims to get more young and disadvantaged mothers breastfeeding, is backed by TV presenter Davina McCall.
The mother-of-two said: "Breastfeeding isn't easy.
"Both times I've nearly given up at six weeks but with some encouragement and reassurance I've persevered and I'm glad I did.
To coincide with the drive, the Maternity Alliance is calling on employers to help support mothers who want to breastfeed at work.
This could include flexible working hours, breaks and facilities for new mothers, the charity suggests.
Director Liz Kendall said: "Most mothers now return to work when their
children are under one year old but many find it difficult to continue
breastfeeding when they get back to work."