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Have interventions been effective at increasing the rates of breastfeeding in the UK?

02 May 2019
14 min read
Volume 27 · Issue 5

Abstract

Background

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life; however, UK breastfeeding rates are some of the lowest worldwide. As such, various interventions have been trialled, aiming to increase breastfeeding rates.

Aims

To evaluate the effectiveness of interventions to increase breastfeeding rates in the UK and determine the features of successful interventions.

Methods

A literature search was performed, using four databases. The results were refined by applying inclusion and exclusion criteria. Two additional articles were recognised by scanning the references sections of identified studies, resulting in 12 articles for review.

Findings

Support-based interventions had predominantly insignificant effects upon breastfeeding rates. Incentives were associated with increases in rates, while combined interventions had mixed success. The interventions were well received by mothers and clinicians and may help to normalise breastfeeding.

Conclusions

Future interventions should provide targeted, personalised support to overcome breastfeeding difficulties, and reward mothers for their efforts.

The rates of breastfeeding initiation and maintenance in the UK are some of the lowest in the world, despite extensive evidence in support of the notion that ‘breast is best’ (Earle, 2002). Exclusive breastfeeding, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘only breastmilk without any additional food or drink’ (Ingram et al, 2011), is recommended for the first 6 months of life followed by breastfeeding in combination with complementary solid foods up to 2 years of age (Ingram et al, 2011). Breastfeeding is the recommended feeding method due to the presence of bioactive agents in breast milk that aid infant development (Martin et al, 2016). Furthermore, it has significant health benefits for the mother, such as protection against breast cancer (Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer, 2002).

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