Campaigners livid as Whitehall axes Breastfeeding Week

Critics say move may undo years of work, just as message on benefits of mothers' milk gets through

"Breast is best" is the simple message healthcare providers like to drum into new mothers' exhausted brains. Their jobs will get a little harder this year after the Government controversially axed its support for National Breastfeeding Week, which was due to run next month.

Campaigners last night warned that the move, which will save just a few hundred thousand pounds, risked undoing years of good work just at a time when the message on the benefits of breast milk were starting to get through.

The decision means there will be no UK-wide campaign to remind parents that breastfeeding is the easiest way to give your baby a head start. The latest research, released earlier this month, revealed that breastfed babies are less likely to have behavioural problems by the age of five than those given formula milk.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said it was "disappointed" by the U-turn, which increases pressure on local support groups to step in instead. Janet Fyle, the RCM's professional policy adviser, said a national campaign "galvanises everybody, from professionals to mother-to-mother groups". She warned: "It is not cost effective to drop something with which you have had some success. The Government needs to look at all the very good work that it has done to generate interest in breastfeeding, and the help that support groups have received."

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, a charity that supports new mothers, called the Government's move "frustrating". She said mums wanted to breastfeed but often found they struggled because they lacked support. She called for "better training" for midwives and more support for organisations such as the NCT, which has its own training scheme for breastfeeding counsellors.

"The evidence of the health benefits of breastfeeding is unequivocal. But as a society we have a funny attitude towards breastfeeding because breasts are used for sex, so I can see why [promoting breastfeeding] is not a total win-win for government," Ms Phipps added.

Although the latest infant feeding survey, due out shortly, is expected to show a slight increase in the numbers of women breastfeeding, it remains a contentious issue. World Health Organization recommendations state that mothers should exclusively breastfeed their babies until they are six months old, but existing figures show that barely a third of British babies are exclusively breastfed at one week and just a fifth at six weeks. By the time babies are four months old, the figures plunge to 7 per cent, giving the UK one of the worst breastfeeding records in the developed world.

Campaigns have featured the likes of Nell McAndrew, the glamour model, who breastfed her son well into toddlerhood. The year that McAndrew fronted National Breastfeeding Week, a third of mothers from C2DE backgrounds said that seeing her extol the virtues of breast milk had made them think more positively about it.

The Department of Health yesterday defended its decision. A spokesperson said it valued work being done by other organisations to promote breastfeeding, adding: "During this transition phase, we will be considering how infant nutrition will be delivered to support better health outcomes."

Among those stepping into the breach is the retailer Mothercare, which intends to team up with the RCM to host in-store advice clinics for new mothers during what would have been National Breastfeeding Week, from 19 to 25 June. The NCT will also be running special events.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Mechanical Design Engineer

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A key client in the East Midlands are re...

    Year 5/6 Teacher

    £21000 - £31000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobWe are looking ...

    Teacher

    £90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The Job...Due to continued ...

    Supply Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Supply TeachersWould you l...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice