More new mothers are opting to breastfeed UK data shows

breastfeed The figures only reflect how many babies are initially breastfed

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More new mothers are opting to try breastfeeding their babies, latest UK figures reveal.

The NHS Information Centre data shows more than eight out of 10 newborns are now breastfed at least once after birth, up from six out of 10 in 1990.

Experts said the increase was welcome and partly due to public awareness that "breast is best" for mother and child.

But the figures do not reveal how many mums stick at it for the recommended first six months of a baby's life.

Many women struggle to continue to exclusively breastfeed. And the Royal College of Midwives is concerned that some new mothers are not getting the support they need to encourage breastfeeding.

Spokeswoman Jane Munro criticised the Department of Health in England for axing funding for National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, which runs this week.

"We do not want to see the ground we have gained lost."

She added: "We know that many women stop breastfeeding when they leave hospital.

"This is why it is so important that they are able to get advice and support from their midwife, and that there are enough midwives with the time to offer these women the help they need."

Smoking

The government said it was committed to training up to an extra 4,200 health visitors by 2015 who would "be able to help support women who want to breastfeed but may find it difficult".

According to the latest figures, breastfeeding rates were higher in England than in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, although rates have risen in most areas.

And the percentage of women who are choosing to smoke either before or during pregnancy has fallen.

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