Joint Statement on Breastfeeding
November 2019

The WBTi UK team are proud to be part of producing this joint statement calling for our next government to make breastfeeding a priority in setting the agenda to prioritise the early years of life.

Download the PDF HERE

We want the new government to invest in the health of women and children by supporting and protecting breastfeeding.

The new government needs to prioritise the first 1001 days of a child’s life, from conception to age two, to enable children to survive and thrive. How an infant is fed and nurtured strongly influences a child’s future life chances and emotional health. Importantly, if a woman breastfeeds there are substantial health benefits for her – having impacts onher future long after breastfeeding has stopped. Independent, practical, evidence-based information and support is essential for every family.  Supporting women with breastfeeding can go a long way to protecting children and mothers from a wide range of preventable ill health, including obesity and mental health problems. This window of opportunity cannot be missed for the future health outcomes of mothers and the next generation. In addition to well documented health outcomes, supporting breastfeeding will also contribute to a stronger economy – potential annual savings to the NHS are estimated at about £40 million per year from just a moderate increase in breastfeeding rates. Support for breastfeeding is also an environmental imperative and recognition of the contribution breastfeeding can make to avoiding environmental degradation should be a matter of increasing global and political attention.

In the UK, the majority of women start to breastfeed but breastfeeding rates drop rapidly – our continuation rates are some of the lowest in the world and are even lower amongst women living in deprived areas, where increasing rates could make a real difference to health inequalities. Support for all women, parents and families with breastfeeding falls short of what is wanted and needed.

Women tell us they encounter difficulties with the public perceptions of breastfeeding out of the home. Families tell us they are still regularly exposed to conflicting messaging and marketing for formula milks that drowns out advice from healthcare professionals. Women tell us they receive little to no help with infant feeding and that their health visitors, midwives and doctors often have little training or knowledge about breastfeeding and limited time to support them. Recent cuts in health visitor numbers and breastfeeding peer support services mean many women may be left without the support they need however they choose to feed their infants.

Despite robust evidence showing that investment in breastfeeding support and protection makes sense, politically breastfeeding has been viewed by governments as a lifestyle choice and so left to parents to work out for themselves. For too many women, trying to breastfeed without support, or stopping before they want to, is deeply upsetting and the situation is made worse by fragmented care, and poor and often conflicting advice from those they are seeking to support them. To ensure an increase in breastfeeding rates, to help reverse obesity rates and to reduce widening health inequalities will require significant investment in breastfeeding.

It is essential that our new government prioritises breastfeeding and invests in its support and protection.

We call on all political parties to commit to the following actions, if elected:-

  • To appoint a permanent, multi-sectoral infant and young child feeding strategy group and develop, fund and implement a national strategy to improve infant and young child feeding practices.
  • To include actions to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in all policy areas where breastfeeding has an impact.
  • To implement the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative across community and paediatric services, building on the recommendation for maternity services in the NHS Long Term Plan.
  • To protect babies from harmful commercial interests by bringing the full International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes into UK law and enforcing this law.
  • To commission, and sustainably fund, universal breastfeeding support programmes delivered by specialist/lead midwives and health visitors or suitably qualified breastfeeding specialists, such as IBCLC lactation consultants and breastfeeding counsellors, alongside trained peer supporters with accredited qualifications.
  • To maintain and expand universal, accessible, affordable and confidential breastfeeding support through the National Breastfeeding Helpline and sustaining the Drugs in Breastmilk Service.
  • To deliver universal health visiting services and the Healthy Child Programme by linking in with local specialist and support services.
  • To establish/re-establish universal Children’s Centres with a focus on areas of deprivation, offering breastfeeding peer support.
  • To make it a statutory right of working mothers and those in education to work flexibly as required and to access a private space and paid breaks to breastfeed and/or express breastmilk and manage its safe storage.
  • To commit to resourcing for charitable organisations who play a key role within the health agenda working at a national and local level to support families and communities with infant feeding.
  • To support the commitment to undertake an Infant Feeding Survey which builds on the data previously collected in the Infant Feeding Survey 2010 (now discontinued).
  • To implement the recommendations of the Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly (BBF) study.

Case for Action

  1. Breastfeeding benefits all babies, and studies have shown that just a small increase in breastfeeding rates could cut NHS expenditure considerably. It is vital to invest in breastfeeding support in the early months and this will reap rewards in the future that are likely to exceed the initial cash flows associated with putting proper support in place.
  2. A UNICEF report states that “no other health behaviour has such a broad-spectrum and long-lasting impact on public health. The good foundations and strong emotional bonds provided in the early postnatal period and through breastfeeding can affect a child’s subsequent life chances”.
  3. Evidence has also demonstrated that a child from a low-income background who is breastfed is likely to have better health outcomes than a child from a more affluent background who is formula-fed. Breastfeeding provides one solution to the long-standing problem of health inequality.
  4. Research into the extent of the burden of disease associated with low breastfeeding rates is hampered by data collection methods. This can be addressed by investment in good quality research.


  1. Laurence M. Grummer‐Strawn Nigel Rollins, (2015), Impact of Breastfeeding on Maternal and Child Health.
  2. Borra C, Iacovou M, Sevilla A (2015) Maternal Child Health Journal (4): 897-907. New evidence on breastfeeding and postpartum depression: the importance of understanding women’s intentions.

3.Brown, A, Rance J, Bennett, P (2015) Understanding the relationship between breastfeeding and postnatal depression: the role of pain and physical difficulties.  Journal of Advanced Nursing 72 (2): 273-282


5.Li R, Fein SB, Chen J, Grummer-Strawn LM, (2008) Why mothers stop breastfeeding: mothers’ self-reported reasons for stopping during the first year.  Pediatrics 122: S60-S76

  1. Support for breastfeeding is an environmental imperative. BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 02 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l5646

7.McAndrew F et al (2012) Infant Feeding Survey 2010

8.NHS (2019) NHS Long term Plan

9.National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2013) Postnatal Guideline NICE, London

10.National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2012) Improved access to peer support   NICE, London

11.Rollins N, Bhandari N, Hajeebhoy N, et al (2016) Why invest, and what it will take to improve breastfeeding practices?  The Lancet 387 491-504

  1. Wilson AC, Forsyth JS, Greene SA, Irvine L, Hau C, Howie PW. 1998 Relation of infant diet to childhood health: seven year follow up of cohort of children in Dundee infant feeding study. BMJ. Jan 3;316(7124):21-5.
  1. Brown, A, Finch, G, Trickey, H, Hopkins, R (2019) ‘A Lifeline when no one else wants to give you an answer’ – An Evaluation of the BFN’s drugs in breastmilk service.







WBTi General Election Campaign 2017

May – June 2017

Contact your election candidate NOW to ask what support they will provide for families.

During the election campaign we have a great opportunity to contact candidates to ask what they are doing to ensure families get the support they need with feeding their babies.

How babies are fed significantly affects infant and maternal health and wellbeing. The majority of mothers in the UK set out to breastfeed yet there is a huge drop off in the early weeks. Mothers want to breastfeed for longer but 8 out of 10 aren’t getting the support they need to carry on.

In the UK only 1% of babies are exclusively breastfed at 6 months.

Even in a developed country like the UK, low breastfeeding rates are costing the NHS at least £40 million a year, and the overall impact on the economy is estimated at 0.5% of GNI (Gross National Income).

For a summary of this research, see the Introduction in the WBTi  World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative UK Report 2016.

Whether you breastfed your own children, hoped to breastfeed but didn’t get enough support, or are a healthcare professional or volunteer supporting breastfeeding women, please get involved.

National leadership and policy change are needed. The World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative UK Report sets out where the UK currently falls short. It includes score cards highlighting what needs to be done. You can download the score card here to show to candidates as ask them to take action. In summary our top asks for government are as follows:

  • To establish leadership in England and Wales with a dedicated coordinator and high level committee to develop national strategies that include improved data collection.
  • To ensure all relevant health bodies fully implement the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative.
  • To fully implement and enforce the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions.
  • To update legislation to include breaks at work for mothers to breastfeed/express milk
  • To ensure easy and timely access to skilled breastfeeding support for all mothers

Please contact your candidates, retweet our messages and share our Facebook posts to help get the change needed to support mums, babies and society

Sample letter to candidates below

To make it easy for you to contact your local candidates, you can copy and paste from the template email below, adding any personal testimony or details of breastfeeding support issues in your own constituency.

Find your local candidates

Not sure who your candidates are? Enter your postcode on the Electoral Commission website to obtain a list of names of candidates in your constituency.

Please note that since Parliament has been dissolved, your local MP’s parliamentary email address will probably no longer work; you will need to Google to find their election website and current contact details.

Do add some information more local to where you live

  • any cuts to your local breastfeeding support services
  • local successes (such as the local maternity unit and /or health-visiting service being awarded Baby Friendly accreditation
  • your own personal experience

See below for some relevant resources for local details

Do please let us know who you have contacted, and any responses, and sign up to our mailing list to keep in touch!

Contact us:
Sign up here to the WBTi-UK mailing list.

See the WBTi 2016 UK Report for relevant information

Additional Resources

  1. For BFLG letter to political parties, see
  2. For names of constituency candidates via the Electoral Commission:
  3. Baby Friendly accreditation details:
  1. Breastfeeding rates:

For information about data collection see WBTI Indicator 10 “Monitoring” pp 56-59

Breastfeeding initiation (NHS England): Click on ‘Breastfeeding 2016-17 Q3’.

PHE breastfeeding statistics (6-8 weeks):

Scotland: see ‘Breastfeeding Statistics on:

  1. Briefing Paper on Cuts to Breastfeeding Services, April 2016

(extensive background information and includes listing of services in England under threat in April 2016):


Sample letter for you to adapt and send to your local candidates:

Dear [candidate]

What is your party’s policy on infant feeding?

I am writing as a constituent of xxxxx before the election on 8 June to ask what action your party will be taking to address the gaps and recommendations in infant feeding policy and programmes, as identified in the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative UK (WBTi) report 2016.

How babies are fed profoundly affects infant and maternal health and wellbeing. The majority of UK mothers set out to breastfeed yet there is a huge drop off in the early weeks. 8 out of 10 mothers wanted to breastfeed for longer but didn’t get the help they needed.

Families are not getting the support they need and, even in a developed country like the UK, low breastfeeding rates are costing at least £40 million a year in increased health costs, with an overall estimated economic impact of 0.5% on UK Gross National Income (GNI).
For a summary of this research, see the Introduction in the  World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative UK Report 2016.

National leadership and policy change is needed to help mothers feed their babies as they wish. The World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative report on the UK sets out where the UK currently falls short.

I would like to ask you the following question:

How will your party address the gaps and recommendations set out in the WBTi Report to ensure families get the support they need?

The top asks from the WBTi report for the next government are as follows:

  • To establish leadership in England and Wales with a dedicated coordinator and high level committee to develop national strategies that include improved data collection.
  • To ensure all relevant health bodies fully implement the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative.
  • To fully implement and enforce the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions.
  • To update legislation to include breaks at work for mothers to breastfeed/express milk
  • To ensure easy and timely access to skilled breastfeeding support for all mothers

The report and score cards summarising what needs to be done can be found on the WBTi website.

I look forward to hearing how your party would take action on this issue

Yours sincerely,



Phone number

(these details are required when you contact your MP and local candidates otherwise you will not receive a reply)





January 2017

wbtiuk16webThe majority of mothers in the UK say they wanted to breastfeed for longer than they did. You can contact your elected representatives to ask them to help every mother in the UK to breastfeed as long as SHE wishes.

We know the policies that are needed. They are set out in the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, adopted through the UN with the support of the UK.

The World Breastfeeding Trends initiative (WBTi) measures government progress in introducing these policies. WBTi-UK produced an in-depth report last year and also report cards for the UK and each of the four countries that make it up. These show where progress has been made and where it is still needed.

Will you help convince your elected representatives to take action in Parliament, the devolved assemblies and elsewhere?

Click here to download the UK report card.

You can also download the report card specific to your country:

You can then do any or all of the following:

1. Book an appointment to see your Member of Parliament (MP) so you can deliver the report card and explain why you would like him or her to act (see key points below). You can find the contact details for the constituency office by entering your postcode here:

2. Send a message to your MP using the writetothem website (again, you can enter your postcode).

3. Donate to WBTi-UK via the Baby Milk Action online shop so the core group can more print report cards and full copies of the report and continue its work.

4. If you are in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales you can also contact your representative in the devolved authority (click on the links for contact details).

5. Sign up to the WBTi-UK mailing list.

Key points for your messages

(We are not providing a draft statement for you to copy as MPs and other politicians take more notice when people use their own words). Here is an example

Background (you can add your own experiences of obstacles to breastfeeding):

1. Most mothers in the UK say they wanted to breastfeed for longer (Of the mothers who had stopped breastfeeding by 8 to 10 months, over three in five (63%) said that they would have liked to have breastfed for longer – last National Infant Feeding Survey (2010)).

2. The Lancet Breastfeeding Series highlighted in 2016 that the UK has the lowest breastfeeding rate in the world at 12 months of age. Exclusive breastfeeding (with no other liquids or foods) is recommended for the first 6 months, with continued breastfeeding beyond this with complementary foods).

3. Exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months of age is just 1% in the UK. The report card gives the average exclusive breastfeeding rate for babies between 0 and 5 months, which is 17%.

4. Enabling mothers to breastfeed as long as they wish does not FORCE them to breastfeed. It is a mother’s decision how she feeds her child.

Action required (see the recommendations on the report cards and possible questions below):

Explain that the WBTi report and report cards shows the key areas where action is needed. Take a printed copy with you if you are meeting your MP. If you are contacting your MP online, include the link:

Any indicator that does not score 10/10 on the report card means more needs to be done (the scores are not like a test result where a lower score is good enough for a pass).

You do not have to comment on all of the areas – pick those of particular interest to you. You might like to raise local issues in the constituency your representative could act on, such as cuts to support services. The specific recommendations to increase the score to 10 is given on the report card.

wbtiukreportcarduk16Indicator 1: National policy, programme and coordination
Indicator 2: Baby Friendly Initiative
Indicator 3: International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes
Indicator 4: Maternity protection
Indicator 5: Health-professional training
Indicator 6: Community-based support
Indicator 7: Information support
Indicator 8: Infant feeding and HIV
Indicator 9: Infant and young child feeding during emergencies
Indicator 10: Monitoring and evaluation

Please let WBTi-UK know when you have contacted your MP and if you receive a response.

Possible Questions to ask your MP.

1. Will you ensure that each country in the UK has an infant feeding strategy and good practice is shared at a high level?

2. Will all UK governments require and fund NHS trusts and boards to achieve and maintain Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation in hospitals and communities?

3. Will the UK Government set guidance for NHS commissioners to ensure the physical and emotional health of the next generation?

4. Will the UK Government ensure that health visiting is maintained as a universal service in England, complemented by peer support schemes throughout the country?

5. Breastfeeding is the only evidenced-based intervention that reduces diabetes and overweight in children, will the Government ensure that it is included in the next Childhood Obesity Strategy?

6. Company promotion of formula misleads mothers who use it and undermines breastfeeding. Will the government protect ALL mothers and babies by bringing marketing laws into line with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly?

7. Will the Government update workplace legislation to include breaks for mothers who wish to breastfeed or express their milk, with accompanying facilities?

8. Breastfeeding supports a child achieving their potential IQ level, so improving his/her life chances and job opportunities, reducing social inequalities. Will you invest in the next generation?