This week is Breastfeeding Celebration Week, and this year the focus is on how partners and the wider family can support new mothers to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding is a natural process, however it is not always easy and the support from family and friends can make a massive difference to new mothers. Emotional and practical help can also make a huge difference to the breastfeeding experience and opportunity to bond with the new baby.
Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants, supplying all the nutrients they need for healthy development. It contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses, such as chickenpox and supports a healthy weight in children. The WHO recognise that children and adolescents who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese. Additionally, children who are breastfed generally engage more with education. There are numerous benefits for women who breastfeed, for example a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Despite the well documented benefits of breastfeeding and a national ambition to increase breastfeeding rates, within the UK we still have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Eight out of ten women in the UK stop breastfeeding before they want to.
It’s important to understand the mother’s choice, and what and who influenced her decision to breastfeed or not.
Almost 68% of women in the UK start breastfeeding, only 48% continue beyond 6- 8 weeks, which is below the recommended 6 months in line with guidance from the WHO. We know that a supportive partner and family can boost a mother’s confidence, providing encouragement to continue with breastfeeding.
Encouragingly, the proportion of babies receiving breastmilk as their first feed over the last year has stayed the same despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporting breastfeeding mothers
Caring for a newborn baby can be exciting and rewarding but also can be challenging. Partners and the wider family can provide practical help and support to new mothers who are breastfeeding. This might include providing emotional support including encouraging the breastfeeding mother, which can help to build their confidence. Sometimes just supporting by taking on simple household tasks can make a huge difference.
For help and support with Breastfeeding head over to our Breastfeeding page that has all the contact details you will need plus lots more advice an support on breastfeeding.