Why we don't breastfeed our children and what we should do about it

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Abstract

Despite the efforts of health promoters, breastfeeding initiation rates remain low in parts of the UK and duration shorter than the six months recommended. This suggests that we need to evaluate how we approach the promotion of breastfeeding and support breastfeeding mothers. Existing research into the maternal and societal perspective on infant feeding implies that decisions reflect attitudes and social norms related to infant feeding and the breast. Decisions are also made in consultation with partners and significant others taking into account social factors. Taken together, this implies that to successfully promote breastfeeding, a societal approach is required in which both genders, all ages and socio-demographic groups are targeted. Attitudes to infant feeding are formed long before conception and are associated with exposure to breastfeeding, indicating a need to engage with schools in promoting breastfeeding. Most importantly, given research suggesting that breastfeeding mothers feel socially isolated, there is a need for action to socially include them by encouraging breastfeeding in social venues and public places and providing enabling facilities. Breastfeeding promotion materials should reflect this by depicting breastfeeding mothers in social situations. The process of restoring breastfeeding as the infant feeding norm is likely to take time. The financial cost of such initiatives, however, will be compensated for by the improved health and well-being of our future generations.

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