National Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Title: National Breastfeeding Awareness Week.


This year sees the biggest publicity drive yet. For the first time, the Department of Health will be supporting National Breastfeeding Awareness with country-wide TV and radio advertising raising the profile of breastfeeding.


The campaign

When is National Breastfeeding Awareness Week (NBAW) taking place this year?
13-19 May.

What activity is planned?
This year sees the biggest publicity drive yet. For the first time, the Department of Health will be supporting National Breastfeeding Awareness with country-wide TV and radio advertising raising the profile of breastfeeding. The NHS breastfeeding website at has been relaunched with clear, easy to understand information for mums and their
supporters.The Minister for Public Health, Caroline Flint, will launch the week with a visit to a breastfeeding community support group. In addition, a programme of public relations activities will be taking place. This will include an exclusive feature with Nell McAndrew promoting breastfeeding in OK! magazine, media competitions giving away a fun campaign babygro designed by Nell, hard hitting media research stories on breastfeeding rates and benefits and features in women’s, regional and lifestyle press. In terms of health professionals, new support materials have been developed and there is a dedicated section on the relaunched NHS website,, featuring downloadable resources and ideas for events to raise awareness.

What’s the aim of the Week?
To raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and promote it as the best, most natural option for feeding babies. This year in particular we really want to celebrate the rise of breastfeeding in this country and make it even more normal and popular to women of every age and of every culture. The Week also backs the efforts of health visitors, midwives and breastfeeding counsellors who do a great job all-year round promoting breastfeeding. National Breastfeeding Awareness Week was set up by health professionals to spread the breastfeeding message even wider. When it was launched in 1993, it was promoted by the National Network of Breastfeeding Coordinators. And for the past 14 years we’ve received feedback from health professionals who welcome its support year on year. It gives them a focus for raising awareness in their local areas. They really get behind it with activities as diverse as high street parades, balloon races, coffee mornings and sponsored feed-ins.

The Statistics

How many women breastfeed in England and in the UK?
The early results from the Department of Health’s 2005 Infant Feeding Survey show that 78 per cent of women in England and 76 per cent in the UK breastfeed at least once.

How does this compare to previous years?
Breastfeeding rates have risen over the last 10 years, as proven by the Department of Health’s Infant Feeding Survey. In terms of UK figures, there’s been a big increase – from 66 per cent of women in 1995 to 76 per cent in 2005.

How does England and the UK compare to rest of Europe and the world?
Traditionally, our country hasn’t performed as well as others in terms of breastfeeding league tables. But the tide is turning. We’re heading in the right direction with a big leap in women who breastfeed just in the last 10 years. Now, around three quarters of women breastfeed at least once in England (78 per cent) and in the UK (76 per cent).

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
There are so many of them for babies and mums that just can’t be found elsewhere. Breastfeeding helps protect babies against respiratory and ear infections, gastro-enteritis and eczema, stimulates their immune systems and is the ONLY food which contains all the nutrients, antibodies, hormones and antioxidants a baby needs to thrive. According to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation, in later life, breastfed babies are 37 per cent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, they’re 22 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese and breastfeeding also significantly reduces their chances of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In addition, breastfed children also perform significantly better in intelligence tests. For mums, breastfeeding reduces their chances of getting breast and ovarian cancer in the future.ii And, while they’re still breastfeeding their child, it helps the uterus to contract and so promotes weight loss, using up to 500 calories a day. Other than these very real health benefits, there’s also the fact that breastfeeding is more convenient, cheaper and can easily be part of everyday
life. Mums don’t have to worry about buying formula, making up bottles properly, remembering to take them out with them, getting them to just the right temperature and so on.

Are there particular sectors of society who tend not to breastfeed?
In general, young women aged 16-24 and women from lower socio-economic groups are less likely to breastfeed, according to the Department of Health’s 2005 Infant Feeding Survey. For instance, just over half of mums aged 20 or under breastfeed in England (54 per cent) (51per cent UK) compared to over four fifths (85 per cent) of mums over 30 (84 per cent UK). And, 67 per cent of
women from routine and manual labourer households in England (65 per cent UK) breastfeed compared to 89 per cent of mums in households where the main earner is in a managerial or professional position (88 per cent UK). But, this group are also moving in the right direction. Their breastfeeding initiation rate has also gone up in the last 10 years.

But why don’t these women breastfeed if the benefits are so enormous?
Our research shows there’s a variety of reasons – from personal preferences, to misguided beliefs in the health benefits of other feeding methods, whether they themselves were breastfed and the beliefs of the people who influence them – such as their own mother and/ or partner. But we find that, when women understand the enormous benefits of breastfeeding for their babies now and in the future, they are more likely to give it a go. So our focus, as ever, is to really push these massive benefits throughout National Breastfeeding Awareness Week and the rest of the year.

Isn’t it a matter of personal choice whether women choose to breastfeed their own child?
Yes, of course. But it’s our job to make women aware of all the facts before they make their decision. And the facts are that breastfeeding is normal, it’s natural and it’s not just a bit better but is SO much better for babies and mums.

Is this another example of the government over-nannying its electorate?
Not at all. Breastfeeding is so much better for babies and mums than anything else. Worldwide research has proved this. It’s our duty to tell people about anything which makes them, their dependants and the nation as a whole healthier. It’s then, of course, up to the individual to make their own mind up about which path they follow.

Are you saying women who don’t breastfeed are bad mothers?
Not at all. We’re here to support mums, not damn them. We’re simply giving women all the facts they need about the benefits of breastfeeding so they can make an informed choice that’s right for them and their families.

Are you saying that formula milk is bad for babies?
We’re following guidelines laid down by the World Health Organisation which says only breast milk contains all the nutrients, antibodies, hormones and antioxidants a baby needs to thrive. We’re saying that breastfeeding is normal, natural and so much better for babies. And we’re here to give mums as much support, information and advice they need to make breastfeeding part of their everyday life.

But how far can these benefits be proved?
The benefits of breastfeeding have been revealed in countless pieces of research from respected sources such as the World Health Organisation and Unicef. Time and again, studies prove that breastfeeding is healthier for babies and mums in all cultures, countries and societies. Most recently, the World Health Organisation has published a rigorous study on its benefits, confirming that breastfeeding slashes babies’ chances of developing diabetes part 2, becoming obese and having higher cholesterol and higher blood pressure in later life.

But if formula is so bad for you, why isn’t there an entire generation of unhealthy people living in this country today?
But who knows how much healthier people would have been if they had been breastfed? Just as one example of the proven benefits of breastfeeding: the latest research from the World Health Organisation proves breastfed babies are 37 per cent less likely to develop diabetes 2 in later life and are 22 per cent less likely to be obese or overweight. There’s no point in speculating
about unproven consequences. We just need to focus on the latest facts – and they are that only breastfeeding contains all the right nutrients a baby needs to thrive.



Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of The Federation of Antenatal Educators (FEDANT) unless specifically stated.

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