Last updated: 22/11/2013
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Breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby. Breast milk
provides all the nutrients a baby requires for the first six months
Why is it important?
There is a range of benefits to breastfeeding to both the mother
and the baby. Breastfed infants are at reduced risk of
gastro-intestinal infections; respiratory infections; ear
infections; type 1 and type 2 diabetes; overweight and obesity;
allergic disease; childhood leukaemia; and sudden unexpected death
in infancy (SUDI). For mothers the benefits include reduced risk of
breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures. Breastfeeding also
promotes bonding between a mother and her baby.
However, breastfeeding shows inequalities, and is more common in
the higher socioeconomic groups and older mothers. Mothers who
don’t breastfeed often have a poorer diet themselves, and are more
likely to introduce solids early; this can leave their children
prone to becoming obese in later childhood.
There are also cost benefits to breastfeeding. The reduced risk
of infections results in fewer visits to the GP and to hospital,
and so reduced cost to the health service. There is also a reduced
environmental cost with breastfeeding. Bottle feeding results in
bottles and packaging being sent to landfill, whilst transporting
formula increases the amount of traffic on the roads.
Where are we now?
Breastfeeding initiation in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has
shown a steady increase from around 65% in 2006. It has now
stabilised at around 80%. However, by 6-8 weeks less than 45% are
still breastfeeding. The reasons for this drop off are complex.
However, they include difficulties in attachment of the baby to the
breast, which can lead to pain and discomfort; the mother believing
that she doesn’t have enough milk for the baby; a desire to get
back to a ‘normal’ life; and sometimes embarrassment at feeding in
What is being done?
NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly has recently completed the long
process of full Unicef BFI accreditation. It is a three stage
process that tests the knowledge and training of health staff, as
well as how effectively this knowledge is passed on to mothers. All
stages have now been achieved in the community, the hospital and
the children’s centres and we are the first county in the country
to achieve accreditation in all these areas, something that should
Evidence suggests that the first few hours and days are crucial
as to whether or not a mother continues to breastfeed. In response
a pilot project has been undertaken to contact all new mums,
regardless of their chosen feeding method, within 72 hours of
leaving hospital or a home birth. A trained peer supporter, offers
advice or can refer the woman on to her local peer support group as
appropriate. A mother who is formula feeding can be given advice on
how to make up formula safely. This project run by Real Baby Milk
has now been completed with some promising results. Future plans
will consider the best way to use this experience.
There are many peer support groups around Cornwall and the Isles
of Scilly. Mothers who use peer support groups generally find them
to be very supportive and helpful.
However, overall the evidence has little information about what
works when trying to increase breastfeeding rates. The evidence
base will continue to be reviewed as part of future planning.
What else is planned?
In previous years, there has been funding from the Department of
Health and the Local Area Agreement to support breastfeeding.
However, this additional funding is no longer available. Therefore,
the entire infant feeding agenda is being reviewed to establish the
most efficient way to use the available funding.
Our future strategy will continue to develop based on local and
national evidence, data and experience.
Nationally, the following will be used to track progress towards
- Breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks
- In the future there will be a requirement to monitor
breastfeeding at 5-7 days, at 10-14 days, and at 16 weeks. The
timescale for this requirement has not yet been determined.
Additionally, we will also be locally monitoring progress in the
Kayley (not her real name) is a 20 year old mum from the
Camborne area. Her second baby was born at the beginning of 2012.
Her first baby had been formula-fed.
At first, Kayley was reluctant to talk about breastfeeding as
she was mainly formula-feeding her baby, and had all but given up
on breastfeeding. Therefore, the adviser talked instead about how
to make up bottles safely. Gradually, as the relationship
developed, the adviser was able to talk to Kayley about having lots
of skin-to-skin contact with her baby, and offering expressed milk.
A local peer supporter made contact with Kayley, and supported her
to attend her local group.
Over a period of several weeks, with lots of support, Kayley was
able to increase the amount of breast milk she gave to her baby. By
the time the baby was 11 weeks old, she was fully breastfed, and
Kayley was expressing an interest in becoming a peer supporter.
UNICEF UK website