Breastfeeding rates in the UK have stagnated, as they have in many places around the world.
Effective action is needed now.
Thanks to a number of significant global initiatives breastfeeding rates around the world have slowly risen over the last few decades. The UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative, the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (the Code), and the Innocenti Declaration and WHO’s Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding have played a major role. We can celebrate some small improvements, but less than 40% of babies worldwide benefit from six months exclusive breastfeeding and in the UK still only 1% of babies are exclusively breastfed for six months.
Some countries have achieved marked increases in breastfeeding rates when a combination of several actions guided by the Global Strategy have been implemented such as:
- A combination of national legislation on the Code and maternity protection for working women.
- Ensuring initiation of breastfeeding in all maternity facilities by using the Baby Friendly Initiative.
- Building capacity to offer skilled infant feeding counselling to all mothers.
- Providing more mother support groups in the community and well planned communication strategies to promote breastfeeding throughout society.
What is the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi)?
In 2005, the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) launched the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi): a collaborative initiative to assess and monitor key breastfeeding policies and programmes (shown below), all drawn from the WHO Global Strategy and the Innocenti Declaration.
The assessment and strategies are developed by partner stakeholder agencies working together to highlight gaps and stimulate action to bridge them. Each country’s results are publicly displayed on the WBTi website, providing further impetus to government leaders to act decisively.
Currently 82 countries are participating in the WBTi; the latest report and details are available online at www.worldbreastfeedingtrends.org
For breastfeeding to be successful families need the right support along the whole course of breastfeeding, from giving birth in a Baby Friendly Hospital, going home to find skilled local support from health visitors, GPs, and having access to support groups throughout their communities. It means accurate information, without marketing pressure from manufacturers, throughout society, from friends, family,health professionals and the media, all the way to policy makers and employers supporting women returning to work.
Mothers and babies need the full network of support that is measured by the WBTi.