20/06/2011 11:35 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Breastfeeding Awareness Week Dropped By Department Of Health

Breastfeeding Awareness Week dropped by Department of Health Getty

The Government has stepped back from a campaign launched 18 years ago to encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies.

The cash-saving measure comes despite the fact that a low proportion of women in the UK breastfeed their babies for any length of time.

National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, which begins today, no longer receives central funds from the Department of Health.

Events will take place around the country, organised by local hospitals or groups such as the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), but there will be no central co-ordination or national campaign, which the Royal College of Midwives said was "very disappointing".

Campaigners are also worried that a network of regional infant feeding co-ordinators are also being cut back.

New figures, to be published next week, are likely to show an increase in the number of women who start to breastfeed their baby, but are not expected to show a big shift in the numbers who continue to do so even close to the six months recommended by the World Health Organisation and endorsed by the UK government.

The last official breastfeeding figures were published in 2007, and showed only a 2 – of mothers were breastfeeding at six weeks. Only a quarter of mothers were breastfeeding at six months.

Exclusive breastfeeding was highest among women from professional and managerial occupations, aged over 30 and with higher levels of education. Most women were willing to try – before the birth, 70 said they were aware of the health benefits.

Rosie Dodds, senior policy advisor at the NCT, said another issue is that some women are deterred still from breastfeeding in public, in spite of the Equality Act passed last year which specifically protects their right to feed in cafes and other public places. "Women are hesitant about it," she said, "especially the youngest and least confident women."

The Department of Health said: "Due to reduced budgets this year, the department is unable to offer any funding for National Breastfeeding Week."

What do you think?
Will the Government's decision to leave breast-feeding promotion up to other health organisations reduce the number of women breastfeeding?

Did you breastfeed?
If so, for how long?
Did you benefit from the help of a breastfeeding counsellor initially?