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Breastfeeding

  • Last modified date:
    16 June 2011

Breast milk is the best form of nutrition for babies and can reduce their risk of developing infections. Breastfeeding delivers significant health benefits for both the mother and her baby.

Exclusive breastfeeding is all a baby needs for around the first six months (26 weeks). After this it can be continued alongside appropriate types and amounts of solid foods.

There is a clear case for promoting and supporting sustainable breastfeeding in the early years. This is particularly important for mothers from low-income groups, who are known to be less likely to breastfeed.

The Department supports the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance that recommends NHS facilities achieve the World Health Organization/UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation as a minimum standard. This includes training and education of frontline staff to achieve appropriate standards of care.

Primary care trusts and local authorities monitor breastfeeding initiation and prevalence at 6 to 8 weeks, when the baby attends for his/her development check. This data informs efforts to support women to breastfed beyond the first few weeks when “drop off” rates are highest.

Data that is collected at quarterly intervals can be accessed at the link below:

More on National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance or World Health Organization/UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation via the links below:

Additional links

Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) (opens new window)

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) is a UK-wide advisory committee of independent experts that was set up to replace the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA). The Committee provides advice on matters relating to nutrition to the Department of Health as well as other Government agencies and Departments.

Subgroup on Maternal and Child Nutrition (SMCN) (opens new window)

The SACN Subgroup on Maternal and Child Nutrition (SMCN) provides scientific advice on issues related to maternal and infant nutrition. SMCN is due to publish its report on ‘The influence of maternal, fetal and child nutrition on the development of chronic disease in later life' in June 2011. This report will be available to dowload from the SACN website.

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