The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has published Position statement: breastfeeding in the UK. This guidance gives advice on how long women should consider breastfeeding. It also sets out the health benefits of breastfeeding for mother and child, and the cost savings to families and health services.
This briefing and infographic from Unicef based on their 2017 survey of infant feeding leads, highlights how support services for mothers and babies are changing in England, and how this could impact breastfeeding rates.
“Special attention is needed in policies designed to protect and support the most vulnerable, such as babies born preterm or sick, into the most disadvantaged families, or to mothers suffering with poor mental health, as these are the babies who are least likely to be breastfed, while needing it the most”.
Download the infographic here Read the briefing here
This update gives the number and proportion of infants who have been fully, partially or not at all breastfed at 6 to 8 weeks after birth. Public Health England collected the data through an interim reporting system set up to collect health visiting activity data at a local authority resident level. Data was submitted by local authorities on a voluntary basis. Information is presented at local authority of residence, PHE Centre and England level.
Providing very-low-birthweight babies with fortified human donor breast milk made no difference to their developmental neurological outcomes at 18 months compared with giving formula.
This randomised controlled trial looked at 363 babies with birth weights of less than 1500g in neonatal intensive care units in Canada. When the mother’s own milk supply was limited, the babies were given either nutrient-enriched donor breast milk or formula developed for premature babies. There was no difference in their understanding, language, or ability to manipulate objects at 18 months.
This finding might help to reduce anxiety about providing formula in areas where donor breast milk is difficult to obtain. However, the research was focussed on developmental outcomes rather than potential effects of donor breast milk on other risks of prematurity, such as immunity or gastrointestinal complications.
This trial will continue to collect data to re-assess developmental outcomes when the children reach five years of age.
Public Health England statistics and statistical commentary on the prevalence of breastfeeding.
The aggregate breastfeeding rate for England for Quarter 3 2016/17 (October to December 2016) is 44.1% (with confidence intervals of 43.9 – 44.4%)
Breastfeeding prevalence can be published for 73 local authorities (passing all 3 stages of validation) and percentages range from 19.0% to 76.9%.
A new study followed about 8,000 babies in Ireland for five years to look at whether breastfeeding had an impact on problem solving and vocabulary (cognitive abilities), and problem behaviours.
“Scientists found tots given the boob had the same IQ at age three and five compared to bottle-fed youngsters,” The Sun reports in its own unique way.
This study has tackled the controversial question of whether there are long-term benefits of breastfeeding for cognitive ability or problem behaviours when children are older (ages three to five). Although they found very limited evidence of benefit, the authors do note that there are some other studies that have used a similar analysis but found differing results. The researchers think this could be due to slight differences in analysis.
This does highlight the difficulties in being absolutely certain whether breastfeeding has direct impact on long-term cognitive outcomes. What we can say is that, if there are differences, they do not appear to be large once other factors are taken into. This may be reassuring to women who were not able to breastfeed.
The strengths of this study include its large size, the fact that it followed participants prospectively for a long period, and took into account a large number of factors that could be influencing the link. There are some limitations. For example, they collected information on breastfeeding at nine months. In some cases mothers may not have been able to accurately remember exactly how long they breastfed for by that point, or felt pressure to report longer durations than were actually achieved.
Read the full Behind the Headlines report article here
Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England have conducted a survey which found that of the three-quarters of the new mums who start breastfeeding, only 40% were still breastfeeding two months later. To help dispel some of the concerns women have about breastfeeding, PHE’s Start4 life programme has launched a new interactive Breastfeeding Friend (BFF) ChatBot. The BFF is accessed through Facebook messenger and provides personal support for mothers at any time of the day or night. The ChatBot works as a live chat tool which is able to respond to questions about breastfeeding posed by the user.