Just one day of breastfeeding boosts a baby's health, say child specialists

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Breastfeeding even for a single day can help improve babies' future wellbeing, new mothers are being told.

Breastfeeding even for a single day can help improve babies' future wellbeing, new mothers are being told.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) said it wanted to encourage women to take one day at a time when breastfeeding their child because every feed made a positive difference to both mother and baby. The UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe ­ almost one-third of women in England and Wales never try to breastfeed, compared with just 2 per cent in Sweden.

In 2003 the Government set primary care trusts (PCTs) a target to increase the number of women starting to breastfeed by 2 per cent a year.

A survey of 500 women for the NCT found that more than half (55 per cent) did not know that the benefits of breastfeeding started from day one.

Research has shown that breastfeeding for just one day makes a difference to a baby's health by stabilising blood sugar, protecting the gut and providing natural antibodies against disease.

The NCT said that it was concerned that a lack of knowledge, along with a lack of support from those around them, may be putting mothers off starting breastfeeding.

Its survey also showed that nine out of 10 people (91 per cent) did not know that breastfeeding for just one month had a lasting impact on health during the first 14 years of a child's life.

Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) did not know that mixed feeding ­ giving both breast milk and artificial milk ­ still provided some protection from infections for babies under six months.

Almost half of women (49 per cent) did not know that breastfeeding also reduced the risk of osteoporosis and ovarian cancer for the mother. But more than half of women (55 per cent) were aware of the current recommendation for babies to receive only breastmilk for the first six months of life.

Nine out of 10 also knew that continuing to breastfeed when solid foods have been introduced was beneficial for the baby.

Belinda Phipps, the NCT's chief executive, said that the trust was concerned that many women did not realise that the benefits of breastfeeding started straight away.

"If more mums knew this they would feel it was worth starting breastfeeding even if they are not sure about how long they will continue," she said.

"Because the benefits start right from the first feed, any amount of breastfeeding is a reason to feel proud. This is especially important for the nine out of 10 women who stop breastfeeding before they want to, generally because of a lack of good information or support from those around them."

Ms Phipps said many women who stopped breastfeeding felt they had failed, but they should realise that each day makes a difference.

"The NCT wants women and those that support them to celebrate every day that they breastfeed their baby.

"Society also has a crucial role in supporting women ­ by creating a culture where breastfeeding is the norm, more mums will have the confidence to start breastfeeding and their babies will benefit from something unique and special," she added.

More help and advice is available from the NCT Breastfeeding Line on 0870 444 8708 or at www.nct.org.uk/breastfeeding

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