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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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Trust celebrates national breastfeeding week

11/06/2019
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Families, health professionals and breastfeeding supporters are invited to come together to share how we can help create a breastfeeding-friendly culture in our local community.

To mark Public Health England's Breastfeeding Celebration Week, running from Monday 17 to Friday 21 June 2019, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, in partnership with Oxfordshire Breastfeeding Support and Oxford Hospitals Charity, will be hosting a display in the atrium of Oxford Children's Hospital.

We have arranged for staff and volunteers to be on hand at various points during the week to talk about the importance of human milk, and provide information on support available to parents who want to breastfeed. There will be lots of interesting material to read and take away at any time.

Dr Ulrike Uhlig, Consultant Paediatrician at Oxford Children's Hospital, said: "National Breastfeeding Celebration Week is a great opportunity to raise the awareness of breastfeeding.

"Breastfeeding matters for both the mother and her baby, because it reduces the risk of serious illnesses in the baby such as chest infections, gastroenteritis, allergies, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome and some childhood cancers as well as reducing the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, hip fractures and cardiac illness in the mother."

More than 60 percent of mothers in Oxfordshire breastfeed for six to eight weeks after giving birth, which is above the national average of 46 percent. However, 81 percent of women having their babies at the Trust start breastfeeding, meaning that more than a quarter stop in the first two months. National surveys show that most women who stop breastfeeding at this time wanted to continue.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies should be exclusively breastfed for six months, and then breastfed alongside complementary foods for at least two years, or as long as mutually desired.

OUH paediatrician Dr Ilana Levene, who is coordinating the breastfeeding celebration activities, said: "Many mums start out breastfeeding their newborn babies but for a number of reasons, which could include lack of support, difficulty latching the baby to the breast and sometimes feeling awkward about breastfeeding in public, many stop earlier than they really wanted to.

"Only one percent of babies are exclusively breastfed in the UK at six months and less than one in 200 is breastfed after their first birthday, meaning that a large majority of children are missing out on the benefits of human milk.

"Breastfeeding is a learned skill, and some mothers and babies need more help than others to get feeding off to a good start. However, the low levels of breastfeeding in the UK indicate that this is a societal problem, not an individual responsibility. As a society we have to return to a culture that sees breastfeeding as the norm and understands normal infant feeding behaviour.

"Whatever feeding choice a mother makes, we are on hand to offer support and welcome anyone to come along to the Children's Hospital to have a chat with us or read the available material throughout the week."

Some of the Oxfordshire Breastfeeding Support (OBS) team will be on the stand in the Children's Hospital during the week.

Jayne Joyce, Project Lead at OBS, said: "Oxfordshire families really want to breastfeed, which is very exciting!

"They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it certainly takes a community to support breastfeeding. People used to learn from childhood how to feed and care for babies by watching their own mum, aunts, sisters, neighbours etc., and helping look after their babies.

"Now, many new parents don't have much previous experience of babies, or any family close by, and even if they do, they might not know how to breastfeed, since breastfeeding rates were at their lowest ever in the UK a generation ago.

"OBS has been providing a friendly face-to-face and online breastfeeding support community in Oxfordshire since 2006, welcoming families from pregnancy onwards. We have four drop-ins per week now and are delighted to be opening our first ever weekend session this month."

Last year, Maternity and Newborn Care Unit teams at the John Radcliffe Hospital were awarded the Stage 2 Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) accreditation by Unicef for their efforts to promote, protect and support breastfeeding.

By celebrating this national awareness week, breastfeeding supporters at OUH together with Oxfordshire Breastfeeding Support also aim to extend their reach among the staff so that breastfeeding is endorsed in more areas of the Trust.

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