The UK has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world, according to new research.
According to a study conducted by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), found that just 34 per cent of babies in the UK are breastfed for six months – the recommended time length – compared to 71 per cent in Norway.
The study, which evaluated 194 nations, also found that only 40 per cent of children younger than six months are breastfed exclusively and only 23 countries have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent.
According to UNICEF, mothers and babies around the world are being failed by a lack of investment in breastfeeding.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said, “Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life.”
“Breastmilk works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants form potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive.”
Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, added, “Breastfeeding is one of the most effective – and cost effective – investments nations can make in the health of their youngest members and the future health of their economies and societies.”
“By failing to invest in breastfeeding, we are failing mothers and their babies – and paying a double price: in lost lives and lost opportunity.”
The study has led to experts in Britain calling for more to be done to change the attitude towards breastfeeding.
Professor Neena Modi, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), told The Guardian that many children found breastfeeding “yukky” and added that, “society is ambivalent about women’s bodies.”
She said, “Perhaps many men feel discomforted because they grow up to regard the breast as a sexual object.”
“In which case I suggest that they should put these attitudes well and truly behind them.”
Modi is just one of a number of signatories in a letter addressed to the Guardian calling for a change in attitudes. In the letter, five royal colleges and head expert organisations call for the “multiple barriers” to breastfeeding in the UK to be changed.
The letter says, “Though some women are unable to breastfeed and some choose not to, with the right support, the vast majority of women are able to breastfeed successfully.”