Infant Feeding Survey - NCT response

Released on: 20 November 2012

The Infant Feeding Survey 2010 provides estimates on the incidence, prevalence and duration of breastfeeding among mothers in the UK in the first eight to ten months after their baby is born.

Heather Trickey, Research Manager (Infant Feeding) for NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, said: 

“More mothers (four in five) are deciding to breastfeed. It is vital that these mothers get the support they need so that more are able to continue for a long as they want to.  NCT welcomes the fact that more mothers are able to breastfeed for longer, which could be due to improvements in women’s ability to access skilled help, through more peer supporters, drops-ins, free antenatal courses for parents and UNICEF Baby Friendly training. However, we are concerned that a high proportion of mothers stop before they planned to in the early days and weeks. This suggests that many women are still not getting all the help they need during this critical adjustment period. Mothers who plan to breastfeed need access to skilled, knowledgeable, non-judgemental, one-to-one support.

“The social divide over feeding decisions is concerning. Younger mothers on low incomes are less likely to feel that breastfeeding is a realistic option for them. They breastfeed for shorter durations and have less access to support networks that enable them to sustain their decisions. Women who are not in professional occupations are also less likely to get antenatal support for breastfeeding. We know that mothers find breastfeeding easier and more enjoyable when it is perceived as culturally normal. Mothers living in more deprived areas are less likely to be aware of their right to breastfeed in public places and are less likely to do so. All mothers should feel it is a real option for them to breastfeed, whatever their social background, and wherever they live.   

“It’s great that the proportion of women exclusively breastfeeding has increased as this is an indication more women are feeling confident about breastfeeding. The percentage of mothers exclusively breastfeeding to six months, in line with guidance from WHO and from UK health departments, is very small. This suggests that this high level policy goal is not engaging with the reality of women's experiences of feeding in the UK.  Guidance is just one factor influencing feeding behaviour and decisions. NCT is concerned that more attention needs to be given to real life circumstances, concerns and perceived barriers that women experience, that limit opportunities to initiate breastfeeding and to continue for several months. 

“The vast majority of UK mothers introduce formula milk at some point. NCT believes that mothers using formula milk (exclusively or in combination with breastfeeding) should have the support to do so safely, and access to factual, helpful information that is free from commercial influence. That’s why NCT’s helpline welcomes calls about any aspect of feeding a baby.”

Ends

Full information about the Infant Feeding Survey can be found here.