Tuesday, May 19, 1998 Published at 21:39 GMT 22:39 UK
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The government is to fund research into why poorer women are less likely to breastfeed than those from wealthier backgrounds.
Public health minister Tessa Jowell has announced a £225,000 research grant for the University of Leeds' Mother and Infant Research Unit.
The unit will look at ways in which mothers from deprived backgrounds can be made aware of the benefits of breastfeeding.
A 1995 government survey shows that only 50 per cent of mothers in lower social classes breastfeed, compared to 90 per cent in the upper classes.
This is despite evidence that breastfeeding protects babies from a range of common allergies and infections and also reduces the risk of post-menopausal cancer in mothers.
A healthy start
Speaking at the start of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, which runs from 17 to 23 May, Ms Jowell said: "We know that breastfeeding gives babies the healthiest start in life.
"We also know that the better educated and better off a mother is, the more likely she is to choose to breastfeed her baby."
She added that the fact that poorer women were less keen to breastfeed perpetuated "the cycle of inequality for another generation".
The money for the research grant is expected to come from money set aside to address health inequalities under the recent Green Paper on public health.