‘Breast is best’ message convinces new mums

Friday, 24 June 2011 10:12 AM

British mothers are increasingly choosing to breastfeed their babies, a charity says.

More than eight out of ten newborn babies in the UK are now breastfed, up from six in ten in 1990, figures from the NHS Information Centre show.

Amanda Kershaw, midwife for Tommy’s, a baby charity which funds research into pregnancy problems, said: "More women are now getting the message that breast is best, and this is starting from even before they are pregnant. This is coming from many sources, such as advertising and media campaigns.

"In the last decade there has been significant improvement in the training of staff involved in caring for women. Women are now being informed about the benefits of breastfeeding from the first visit they have with the midwife during pregnancy.“

Kershaw added that there were many advantages to breastfeeding for the baby such as protection against urinary, respiratory and ear infections, and it also aids neurological development.

A study published last month also found breastfed children were less likely to develop behavioural problems before the age of five, compared with those who were bottle fed.

One possible reason for the findings put forward by researchers from the universities of Oxford, Essex and York, along with University College London, was that breast milk contains large amounts of essential long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, growth factors and hormones which have an important role in the development and function of the brain and central nervous system

Results of another study revealed earlier this year and conducted by Durham University discovered that the longer the period of pregnancy and breastfeeding the larger the baby’s brain becomes.

Professor Robert Burton at Durham University said: "What we don't know at the moment is if there is anything in mother's milk that helps the brain to grow."

But, he went on to say that "at the moment we cannot say for sure that formula milk is not an adequate replacement."

However, while, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends infants be exclusively breast fed for the first six months, some doctors are questioning whether breast milk alone provided sufficient nutrition.

Dr Mary Fewtrell, consultant paediatrician at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London, said: “There is a higher risk of iron deficiency, anaemia, if babies are exclusively breast fed and a higher incidence of coeliac disease and food allergies if children are not introduced to certain solid foods before six months.”

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