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New Campaign To Encourage Mums To Breastfeed

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Encourage Mums To Breastfeed

More mums are starting to breastfeed with breastfeeding rates at their highest level in England in decades.

According to the latest statistics published at the start of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week and the launch of a new TV ad campaign to encourage more women to breastfeed.

More than three quarters (78 per cent) of new mums in England start breastfeeding when their baby is born, according to the Infant Feeding Survey published by the Information Centre today. However, younger women and those in more disadvantaged communities are still less likely to breastfeed their babies. And the numbers of women breastfeeding also drops off despite the recommendation that babies are breastfed for their first six months.

National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, which runs until 19 May, is a government initiative which aims to support health professionals in promoting the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and their mums. And for the first time this will include TV ad campaign encouraging younger women to breastfeed their babies. The government will also publish a new joint NHS and UNICEF information leaflet for new mums giving them practical information and tips on how to breastfeed successfully.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said: "All the evidence shows that 'nothing is fitter than a breastfed nipper'. We've made good progress over the last 30 years encouraging more and more women to breastfeed. However, we cannot be complacent. There are communities where breastfeeding rates remain low adding to the health inequalities gap. We need to do more to close this and to ensure that babies receive the best form of nutrition and to give them the best start in life. We have set a target to increase breastfeeding initiation rates by two per cent year on year, in particular targeting women in these disadvantaged groups. Our new ad campaign targets younger women especially, telling them that breastfeeding is the norm, it's natural and provides all the nutrition that babies need in their first six months.

"Our annual National Breastfeeding Awareness Week is a great focus for these efforts and we hope it helps even more women to think about breastfeeding this year.

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"In the longer term we are also planning to work more closely with retailers and other organisations to encourage breastfeeding in their establishments making them 'breastfeeding friendly'. "

Breastfeeding is becoming the norm and those who don't think that breastfeeding is acceptable in public are now the minority - only 23 per cent say that they don't agree with it. Meanwhile, 74 per cent of women now realise that it's the best option for a baby's health and a further 78 per cent of respondents said breastfeeding is just a normal part of everyday life, according to the Infant Feeding Survey 2005.

Ginder Narle, Infant Feeding Best Practice Manager, at the Department of Health, said: "Levels of breastfeeding in England have increased over the last few years, but we need to do more to encourage mothers to breastfeed for longer focusing particularly on younger mothers from disadvantaged groups. We've listened to requests for more support and are delivering the biggest drive yet to normalise and popularise breastfeeding and raise awareness about its very real benefits.

"Health professionals should visit the NHS breastfeeding website where they will be able to obtain resources on breastfeeding and advice on how to run events in their local communities."

Sue Ashmore, Director of UNICEF's Baby Friendly Initiative, said: "We are delighted to work in partnership with the Department of Health and support its efforts to promote and sustain breastfeeding through providing information and implementing best practice. Our joint efforts will help the NHS to work towards the principles of the Baby Friendly Initiative which have proved successful in increasing breastfeeding rates."

To mark this year's National Breastfeeding Awareness week, a range of resources has been launched to support health professionals to promote breastfeeding along with advice on how to run events in their local communities.

This year's breastfeeding awareness campaign is being fronted by celebrity mums, including model Nell McAndrew.

Commenting on her involvement in the campaign, Nell McAndrew said: "I'm here to tell other mums just like me that breastfeeding has so many benefits. I'm like any new mum. I'm finding my feet with motherhood but I just want the best for my baby - and for me that's breastfeeding. It's got so many enormous health benefits that just can't be found anywhere else. And its other big bonus for me is the fact that it's convenient, hassle-free and fits into my everyday life."