Suffolk: Experts hope for breastfeeding boost after Royal birth

Could Kate encourage other mums to breastfeed?

Could Kate encourage other mums to breastfeed? - Credit: Archant

A decision by Kate Middleton to breastfeed her baby could help improve take-up rates across Suffolk, experts have said.

It’s believed that the example set by the Duchess of Cambridge with the Royal baby, could help to reduce the stigma of breastfeeding amongst the young and cut the number of mothers who give up nursing shortly after leaving hospital.

Health chiefs in the county have already said they are working hard to find ways to increase breastfeeding, with new figures suggesting the county had dropped below the national average.

Although more mothers in Ipswich Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital (78.1%) are nursing than the national average (73.9%), that figure drops to 45.8% by the six to eight week check – 1.4% below the national average.

Alan Murray, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for health and adult care, said the Royal baby could help “improve the general acceptability of breastfeeding as a vital activity in modern life.”

He added: “I’m sure if Kate breastfeeds it will be big news and will up the figures nationally, no doubt about it. What she does becomes the norm.”

Dr Murray said there were a number of reasons for the decline between hospital and home.

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He added: “There is a deprivation issue - breastfeeding is less common than in more affluent areas of Suffolk. It’s also to do with longer term problems like family break up; mother and grandmother is not around to help in those early days and weeks of breastfeeding when it can be very difficult – especially if it’s not a full term baby and they don’t take the breast well.”

Dr Murray said despite an increase of 6.5% mothers initiating breastfeeding more needed to be done to reach 2013/14 targets of 80% breastfeeding at birth and 47% at six to eight weeks.

“Plainly we need to do better and things are in place to do better but we need to work quite hard to do that. What we really need is ancillary care running into homes for the first two weeks, but that’s never going to happen.”

Dr Murray said research was being carried out into a web-based support system for Suffolk mothers and added that the National Childbirth Trust could be called upon to take a more active role in the first days after leaving hospital.

A social marketing campaign of ‘Give it a go’ is currently underway in Suffolk hospitals to promote the positive impacts of breastfeeding. The implications of improving take-up rates would be long-lasting. Dr Murray said: It means that the child probably doesn’t get obese in childhood, probably doesn’t develop things like childhood asthma and allergies and probably has a better quality of life because of the bonding between mother and child. They are all fairly unscientific but there is a fair amount of evidence to say it is right.”