NHS Western Isles promotes the benefits of breastfeeding

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The new NHS Western Isles Policy on Breastfeeding was launched recently by the local breastfeeding support group, Bosom Buddies.

NHS Western Isles is committed to promoting breastfeeding as the healthiest way for a woman to feed her baby. It recognises the important health benefits now known to exist for the mother and her child.

The main aim of the policy is to ensure that the health benefits of breastfeeding are discussed with all pregnant women and their families as appropriate, so that they can make a fully informed choice about how they feed their babies.

NHS Western Isles is pleased to note that the number of women breastfeeding at birth has risen from 51% in 2009 to 56% in 2010. The proportion of women still breastfeeding on discharge home from hospital has also risen considerably from 37% in 2009 to 48% in 2010. These figures demonstrate that breastfeeding mothers are being better supported while they are in hospital.

Breastfeeding support groups, such as Bosom Buddies, encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding in an environment where they can share experiences with other mothers and ask questions or raise concerns with midwives and health visiting staff.

Local midwife, Anne-Marie Maciver said: “Research shows that the benefits of breastfeeding start right from day one, so every day of breastfeeding is a reason to feel proud. This is especially important for the nine out of 10 women who stop breastfeeding before they want to. We have some excellent local groups in place that support women to breastfeed and encourage them when they are struggling, but we also want the families and friends of women who breastfeed to recognise the support they give can also make a real difference.”

To help NHS staff to support mothers, NHS Western Isles has committed to the UNICEF baby friendly package for training of healthcare professionals in breastfeeding management. The Board is working towards a target to increase the exclusive newborn breastfeeding rate at 6-8 weeks from 26.6% in 2007 to 33.3% in 2011. Local midwives are carrying out training in breastfeeding management with midwifery, health visiting and auxiliary staff, as well as short courses for General Practitioners.