Experts rate breastfeeding support in Scotland

Breastfeeding support in Scotland has scored highly in an expert report reviewing current services.

The Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly (BBF) Scottish committee awarded a 2.4 rating out of three, saying there is a “strong” environment for scaling up the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding in Scotland.

The group made eight recommendations for further improvement, to help boost the rate of women supported to breastfeed for as long as they want.

These include ensuring equal access to audited and registered support providers with well developed referral structures.

The report also recommends creating a network of breastfeeding advocates across Scotland, with an associated strategy and calendar of events.

The committee wants the Scottish Government to commit to prioritising adequate, ring fenced funding for breastfeeding support and for gaps and inconsistencies in data to be addressed, moving to collecting information on breastfeeding children up to two years old.

The report notes breastfeeding rates in Scotland have improved since from 44% in 2001/02 to 51% in 2017/18 of mothers reporting any breastfeeding of babies to a health visitor at 10 to 14 days.

In 2001/02 this was 36% at six to eight weeks old, rising to 42% in 2017/18 but the number of babies exclusively breast fed since birth by this age was 28%.

Rates remain “relatively low” the compared to other countries and recommended targets, the report states, and are lowest among women in areas of higher deprivation.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman welcomed the BBF report.

She said: “This is an important opportunity to increase our efforts and to consider whether we are all doing enough to enable breastfeeding and to consider what we could do better.

“We need to remove the barriers that cause negativity towards breastfeeding, and to promote it as a natural and healthy activity, which provides babies with the best nutritional start in life.”

She spoke on a visit to NHS Ayrshire and Arran’s Maternity Unit where the board is testing an integrated infant feeding team for mothers who have given birth by Caesarean section.

The health board’s nurse director, Hazel Borland, said: “Our integrated infant feeding team will give mothers proactive, family-centred, one-to-one breastfeeding care from a peer supporter within 48 hours of birth.

“This will support new mothers to breastfeed for longer, beginning with those for whom we know it can be more challenging.”