Response to ISD Scotland's figures on breastfeeding

Dr Margaret Douglas, Consultant, Public Health, NHS Lothian, said:

"Lothian now has one of the highest rates of breastfeeding in Scotland, with six out of ten mothers breastfeeding in the first few days of their child's life. In Lothian, 48.3% of women breastfeed their babies at six weeks compared with 36.3% in Scotland as a whole. But there is still scope for improvement.
"We know that breastfeeding is one of the things that can make a real difference to babies' and mothers' health, and maximum benefits are gained by exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months. This is why we are continuing to support women in making this positive choice through providing advice and support in establishing breastfeeding during the early weeks and months of the child's life. We are aware that breastfeeding rates vary across the region, particularly in the most disadvantaged communities where babies are least likely to be breastfed.
"We need to continue to improve the support available for women so that more babies across Lothian can receive the benefits of being breastfed.
"We have a number of initiatives in place to increase breastfeeding rates in Lothian still further. These include:
    • Special training for Health visitors and midwives in supporting breastfeeding mothers.
    • Recruiting Infant Feeding Advisers to provide training in breastfeeding, develop further peer support services and raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding for both babies and children.
    • Gaining UNICEF "baby friendly" status at the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Medicine, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
    • Setting up the Best Buddies scheme, through which women who have themselves breastfed a baby are trained to support other new mothers.
        "It is also important to address misconceptions about breastfeeding and ensure that all our communities are welcoming towards breastfeeding mothers.
        "Being breastfed improves the baby's health in infancy and also his or her chances later in life. Breastfeeding protects against many childhood infections, improves brain development and reduced the likelihood that a child will grow up to be obese. Breastfeeding is also good for mothers: women who breastfeed have lower risks of some types of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fracture. This is why it is so important to encourage and help women to breastfeed their babies. The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life."