New mothers need more help to breastfeed

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today called on the Scottish Government to provide better support for mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies; following new data which shows infants here are less likely to be breastfed compared to babies in other countries.

According to new Infant Feeding Statistics, "breastfeeding rates in Scotland are low compared to those in other countries worldwide". The figures show 63% of babies born here in 2016-2017 were breastfed at least once, and at 6 to 8 weeks of age that fell to 41% of infants being breastfed. The Scottish Government’s own guidelines recommend breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, when weaning can begin. 

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: 

“There is good evidence that breastfeeding protects the health of children and mothers but breastfeeding rates in Scotland are low. Improving breastfeeding rates would help to improve the health of babies and mothers, and reduce inequalities in health. 

“We can do better when it comes to infant health, we know that more babies elsewhere are getting breastfed more and for longer. In Scotland, just 12% of mothers under 20 breastfeed, and we could do more to help these young women.

"It should be up to each parent to decide what is right for them, and no woman should be made to feel uncomfortable or stigmatised for something that is completely natural.

“Once a child is born, the current system is primarily focused on checking the health of the child. So we ‘tick the box’ when a mother has successfully breastfed initially but then the contact drops off. There’s already some help available through the NHS health visitors but we need to empower women by equipping them with all the facts before they make an informed decision and also let mothers who choose to breastfeed know about all the support available to them. At the same time we must not put women under pressure around what should be a private decision.” 

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