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Parents believe Government cuts are letting down new mothers

CHANGE: 93% of new parents believe that breastfeeding mothers should feel encouraged to breastfeed anywhere in public, 85% believe there is a real stigma around it

THE GOVERNMENT is letting parents down by not investing enough money in breastfeeding support services, according to new research unveiled today (Feb 19).

The survey by The Baby Show, which returns to London’s ExCeL 2nd - 4th March, has revealed that 68% of new parents believe the government doesn’t provide enough funding for breastfeeding support services which may go some way to explaining why rates of breastfeeding in the UK are the worst in the world, despite the fact that 89% of new UK parents had every intention of breastfeeding their new arrivals.

The difficulties for many new mums trying to breastfeed is well known. Of those asked, just one in three (37%) said they found it easy. As a result, demand for breastfeeding support is overwhelming - a massive 84% of new mums said they sought assistance.

The most common source of help was midwives, followed by an NHS lactation consultant or breastfeeding clinic, then a health visitor. The research found that it’s not the quality of care that needs improvement, rather availability.

Of those new mums surveyed, 74% described the help they received from midwives as good or excellent, 72% rated NHS lactation and breastfeeding clinics as good or excellent while 69% rated their health visitor as so.

However, over a third (36%) of parents found NHS breastfeeding counselling services not accessible enough while 57% of new parents say they worry that the government is closing down breastfeeding clinics all around the country as a means to cut costs. In fact, half (50%) said the government should be investing in additional NHS breastfeeding clinics, with 49% saying more should be invested in training health visitors and 44% in training midwives.

Vanessa Christie, Lactation Consultant and Breastfeeding Expert at The Baby Show said: “The essential support that high-quality and accessible breastfeeding services provide for new families across the country, have been systematically squeezed and dis-banded in recent months and years.

"I have worked with thousands of new families at the frontline and know first-hand how quickly and easily problems can spiral when the right support is not available – primarily due to lack of access to both staff with specialist credentials and invaluable mother-to-mother peer support programmes and due to increasing pressure on existing healthcare services.

“Many councils and healthcare trusts claim that they are fully committed to supporting breastfeeding mothers. However, in a bid to be more cost-effective, it is clear from their actions that they do not understand the unquestionable negative impact that giving lip service to breastfeeding services has on the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies. This does not save money!

"On the contrary, it creates a situation where the demand on other services, such as GPs, A&E departments and mental health services only goes up and breastfeeding rates go down. It is well documented that improving breastfeeding rates in general, has a significant positive long-term financial impact on healthcare and society as a whole[2].”

The poll also revealed that in these progressive times, there is still some way to go before new mothers can feel completely comfortable breastfeeding. While a huge 93% of new parents believe that breastfeeding mothers should feel free to do so anywhere in public, 85% say that a real stigma around it remains.

The vast majority also agreed that changes were needed to make returning to work easier for breastfeeding mothers; 87% think that workplaces should be required by law to provide breastfeeding breaks to feed or express. Furthermore, over three quarters (77%) of respondents believe education is needed from a much younger age and that children should in fact be taught about breastfeeding at school, to help normalise the practice.

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