Summit shows commitment to improvement

Calum Campbell, NHS Lanarkshire chief executive, makes his pledge .
Calum Campbell, NHS Lanarkshire chief executive, makes his pledge .

NHS Lanarkshire hosted a summit to demonstrate their commitment to improving breastfeeding rates.

At the event, over 100 health professionals and volunteers made a personal pledge to support breastfeeding.

Anne Armstrong, NHS Lanarkshire’s interim director of nursing said: “The aim of the day was to evaluate current practice and strengths to devise an action plan to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in Lanarkshire.

“The breastfeeding summit was an opportunity to bring people together to really understand the challenges faced by families and the barriers that prevent breastfeeding in Lanarkshire.

“It was also a chance to consider UNICEF’s call to action to ‘change the conversation’; to stop laying the blame for a major public health issue in the laps of individual women and acknowledge the collective responsibility of us all.”

Everyone who attended the event was asked to make their own personal pledge to take whatever steps they can to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. The aim is to make Lanarkshire a place where breastfeeding is the norm and build a supportive community around families to support breastfeeding.

Susan Short, NHS Lanarkshire public health nutritionist, said: “How babies are fed is one of the most important decisions parents can make as it has life-long implications for both mother and baby.

“Children who are breastfed for longer periods have higher intelligence, fewer infections, fewer dental problems and are less likely to be overweight or diabetic in later life. For women, breastfeeding protects against breast and ovarian cancer and diabetes.

“Breastfeeding protection is important in rich and poor countries alike and helps to narrow the health inequalities gap. The cost to the NHS every year of treating just five illnesses resulting from formula feeding is £48 million.

“This is why we are working hard to ensure mothers know that when it comes to breastfeeding; help is at hand. We have the information and support that families need to start and continue breastfeeding.”

Also at the summit, NHS Lanarkshire were delighted to be first to welcome the Scottish Government to present the findings of the ‘National Maternal and Infant Nutrition Survey’.

Linda Wolfson, Scottish Government national maternal and infant nutrition lead, said: “What struck me was that those who support new parents agreed that the findings in the national survey clearly resonated with them and mirrored the everyday issues and challenges that new families commonly face.

“This is great as we can all work together to deliver really creative solutions and deliver the best care for parents who want to breastfeed.”

Dr Amy Brown, associate professor in child public health at Swansea University and author of ‘Breastfeeding uncovered - who really decides how we feed our babies’, also spoke at the event and discussed the impact society has on breastfeeding

Dr Brown said: “My research over the last ten years has answered this; what is going on is that society has created a culture that despite advising breastfeeding, does not actually support it and in many instances actively discourages it.

“Many breastfeeding problems are not actually physiological but caused by a society that does not understand.”