Breastfeeding is recognised as a key public health issue that promotes good health throughout society with health benefits to both mother and baby. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants start breastfeeding within one hour of life and that they should be exclusively breastfed for six months1. Thereafter, breastfeeding should continue for up to two years of age or beyond with the introduction of complementary foods at six months in order to meet the nutritional needs of the infant.
Evidence demonstrates that breast milk provides all the nutrition an infant needs in early life, as well as promoting cognitive and sensory development2. Breast milk gives health benefits to both mother and infant in the short-term and long-term.
In the short-term, studies suggest that breastfed infants have a reduced risk of gastrointestinal illness (e.g. infant diarrhoea), respiratory tract infections, ear infections and atopic (allergic) disease2,3. Continued breastfeeding allied with the introduction of appropriate weaning foods can also reduce infant mortality.
The Infant Feeding Survey (IFS) 201016 found that there was a strong association between breastfeeding and the age of the mother. Across the UK as a whole, breastfeeding was lowest amongst mothers under the age of 20 (58%) and highest among mothers aged 30 and over (87%).
Although the age of mothers and their breastfeeding status is currently unavailable in Knowsley, it is known that the age females in Knowsley have their babies is younger than in England as a whole17, thus inferring that breastfeeding is less likely to be initiated in Knowsley.
The IFS 201016 showed that the levels of breastfeeding initiation increased when deprivation levels decreased. Indeed, breastfeeding initiation was highest in the least deprived quintile of the country (89%) compared to the most deprived quintile of the country (73%).
Knowsley had the lowest proportion of mothers who initiated breastfeeding in the Liverpool City Region during 2013/14, significantly lower than the other five local authority areas.
Breastfeeding initiation rates in Knowsley’s electoral wards vary considerably. In 2007/08, breastfeeding initiation ranged from 11.8% in Park electoral ward to 51.4% in Roby electoral ward, the latter being more than 4 times higher than the former.
An audit undertaken in the three main maternity units serving Knowsley showed that of the women who initially breastfed in hospital, 89% were still breastfeeding / mixed feeding / expressing when they were discharged from hospital and 80% were breastfeeding / mixed feeding / expressing 48-hours after discharge from hospital (on their first contact).
The full JSNA report can be found here: JSNA Reports – Breastfeeding
Published: July 2015
- Knowsley Child Health Profile – http://www.chimat.org.uk/resource/view.aspx?RID=242326 Knowsley Breastfeeding Action Plan – http://www.knowsley.gov.uk/pdf/breastfeeding-action-plan-for-knowsley-2015-2017.pdf