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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 05:27 GMT 06:27 UK
Scots breastfeeding help 'best'
Baby breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is proven to have many health benefits
New mothers in Scotland are more likely to receive effective breastfeeding help while they are in hospital than mothers elsewhere, according to a report.

Unicef UK figures show that Scotland has proportionally more births in maternity units which have achieved "baby friendly" accreditation.

The initiative is a worldwide programme run by Unicef and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The baby friendly award has been given to 46% of maternity wards in Scotland.

The figure compares to 34% in Northern Ireland and Wales respectively and 10% in England.

The initiative aims to promote breastfeeding by training and supporting health professionals in giving mothers information about feeding their baby.

Changes need to be made, midwives want to make those changes, but all too often there is a manager standing in the way
Andrew Radford
Unicef UK Baby Friendly director
Research in the UK shows that nine out of 10 women who give up breastfeeding in the first six weeks of life said they stopped before they wanted to, but that better breastfeeding support would have made a difference.

Hospitals are given the baby friendly award only after they have implemented a series of 10 steps to successful breastfeeding.

These include training all staff with the techniques of successful breastfeeding, encouraging breastfeeding on demand, skin-to-skin contact, and allowing mothers and babies to remain together 24 hours a day.

Changes needed

A hospital has to undergo rigorous assessment and examination by Unicef professional staff before the award is given.

Andrew Radford, Unicef UK Baby Friendly director, said: "This is great news for mothers and babies in Scotland, who are increasingly likely to be given effective support to breastfeed successfully.

Baby being breastfed
Breastfeeding in public is still sometimes taboo
"We are delighted at the willingness of many Scottish maternity units to work with us towards giving mothers the best possible care around breastfeeding."

But Mr Radford said the picture in Scotland was "patchy" with some areas providing poor services and advice.

He said: "Changes need to be made, midwives want to make those changes, but all too often there is a manager standing in the way.

"Breastfeeding has such overwhelming health benefits for babies that every parent should be demanding that their hospital becomes baby friendly."

Within the UK, breastfeeding levels are low compared with Europe and much of the rest of the world, and there is a strong cultural and social context which can determine whether a woman chooses to breastfeed.

Unicef said that overall breastfeeding rates in the UK have not increased for the past 20 years, but that baby friendly hospitals raise their rates by an average of 10.5% over four years.

'Real commitment'

Gillian Lenaghan, from the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland, said she was delighted with the Unicef report.

"Not too long ago, Scotland was the worst in Europe for breastfeeding so the fact that this is happening is brilliant," she told BBC News Online.

"One of the reasons why Scotland has come out top is probably because we don't have the staff shortages they have in England.

"In Scotland it's more one-to-one whereas in England, especially in London and the south west, they have massive shortages.

"I think because Scotland had such a low rate, there has been a real commitment to turn things around."

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