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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 23:41 GMT 00:41 UK
Lobby for breastfeeding support
Breast milk provides excellent nutrition
Campaigners calling for more support for breastfeeding mothers have lobbied Westminster.

A demonstration outside the Department of Health in Whitehall was followed by the presentation of a 5,500 signature petition to Downing Street.

The campaigners want a national breastfeeding strategy overseen by a national infant feeding co-ordinator.

They also want a law to protect a woman's right to breastfeed in public in England.

Breastfed babies five times less likely to end up in hospital than formula-fed babies with gastroenteritis
Breastfed babies half as likely to end up in hospital with respiratory disease in their first seven years of life
Breast milk protects against diabetes and obesity

Such a law already exists in Scotland.

The campaigners say better advice to mothers could save the NHS millions of pounds every year

Research suggests that 90% of UK women who stop breastfeeding by six weeks would have liked to have continued for longer.

Most are believed to stop due to pain or concerns of insufficient milk - both of which are largely avoidable with the right information and support.

Best option

It is widely accepted that breast milk provides the best possible nutrition for a small child.

The World Health Organization recommends that women breastfeed for at least the first two years of a child's life.

The campaign is backed by organisations such as the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), the Royal College of Midwives, and the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association.

Emma Thompson
It should be allowed whenever and wherever a mother happens to be
Emma Thompson

Supporters say there is clear evidence that a comprehensive national breastfeeding strategy would help to raise rates of breastfeeding.

This has been borne out in Scotland, which already has a breastfeeding coordinator working to promote the habit in local hospitals.

Rosie Dodds, of the NCT, said: "We need more support for breastfeeding mothers in order for them to feel comfortable and able to breastfeed for as long as they want and where they want."

The campaign is also backed by actress Emma Thompson, who said simple, easy-to-implement measures could have a huge impact.

"So many women are given conflicting information. It is time to get the message across - not only is breastfeeding the perfect beginning for mother and child, but it should be allowed whenever and wherever a mother happens to be."

Government response

A Department of Health spokesperson said the government was committed to promoting breastfeeding as the best form of nutrition for infants.

The aim was to increase breastfeeding rates by two percentage points every year, with a specific focus on women from disadvantaged groups.

"We are collecting data through the National Infant Feeding Survey 2005 on women's experiences of breastfeeding in public.

"We will keep the need for legislation under review in light of this evidence and the Scottish experience."

Nursing mothers' experiences of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding bill gains approval
18 Nov 04 |  Scotland

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