Mothers in Edinburgh lead the way in Scotland when it comes to breastfeeding.
New research has shown the capital has the highest percentage of mothers breastfeeding their babies more than six weeks after birth.
The research, compiled by the NHS in Scotland, compared health board and council areas across Scotland.
The survey found that 56.4 per cent of new mums in the City of Edinburgh council area continued breastfeeding for six to eight weeks after birth. The lowest area in Scotland was North Lanarkshire with just 23.2 per cent.
NHS Lothian chair Brian Cavanagh said the statistics were encouraging. “Women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast cancer, overian cancer and even hip fractures in later life.
“They also reduce the risk of their child having things like chest and ear infections – and diabetes. I’m encouraged that mothers in Edinburgh have picked up this message and continue to breastfeed their children beyond six weeks.
“They’re benefiting themselves and their children.”
Back in 1994, the Government set a national target to improve the rates of breastfeeding amongst mothers. The aim was to get more than 50 per cent of women continuing to breastfeed their babies at six-weeks-old – to be achieved by 2005.
While the Edinburgh Council area has broken through the 50 per cent barrier (according to the latest statistics for 2004) – the average figure for the Lothians area is 46.9 per cent.
Mr Cavanagh said: “A lower percentage of mothers in other parts of the Lothians were breastfeeding beyond six weeks and this brought the overall regional percentage down. The East Lothian figure was 43.8 per cent, Midlothian 34.6 per cent and West Lothian, 33.2 per cent. Clearly we have some work to do in these areas, encouraging more new mums to breastfeed their children.”
Karla Napier, an infant feeding advisor at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, said: “We’ve put a lot of effort into promoting breastfeeding to new mothers. Although around 75 per cent of women here breastfeed after birth, many stop before six weeks because there are uncomfortable, or don’t think the baby is gaining weight.
“With some support – including teaching them better positions to breastfeed – we’re helping mums breastfeed longer. This benefits them and their babies. We have an comprehensive programme, including an excellent video to support breastfeeding.”
Ms Napier, who works with hospital midwives and neo-natal staff, said there was no clear explanation why areas surrounding Edinburgh had lower levels of breastfeeding.
“There may be more social acceptance and support of breastfeeding in city areas,” said Ms Napier. “We’ve probably got more middle class mothers with stronger support to carry on breastfeeding. Surrounding areas may have more social deprivation and less tolerance of breastfeeding. Given the new law on breastfeeding no mother should feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public.”
In March this year, a new Scottish law came into force giving mums the right to breastfeed in public.
Businesses like bars and shopping centres who stop nursing mothers from feeding their babies risk a fine of up to £2,500.
The new Breastfeeding (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament last November. The new law covers breastfeeding women as well as anyone feeding milk to toddlers in licensed premises where children are already allowed to enter.
* New mothers who want help and advice on breastfeeding can attend a drop-in clinic for free support at the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health at Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. The clinic runs from 12 noon to 4 p.m. every Tuesday. For more information call 0131 242 2490.
Issued by ADRIAN MAHONEY of The PR Store
on behalf of NHS Lothian