Scrap 'breast is best' slogan, say campaigners

image captionBreast-fed babies are less likely to be obese in childhood and later life

Campaigners are calling on the government to drop the "breast is best" slogan because it is not convincing new mums to breast feed, they say.

The Breastfeeding Network wants breastfeeding to be seen as the norm - not something special - as the slogan suggests.

Research shows that breast-fed babies are less likely to become obese in childhood and adulthood.

The Department of Health says it is only following official guidance.

Lesley Backhouse, chair of The Breastfeeding Network, wrote to the Department of Health asking that the message "breast is best" be changed.

'Biological norm'

"We've got to knock breastfeeding off this pedestal," she said.

"It implies something special, whereas breastfeeding is the physiological norm, and suggests that formula is the standard way to feed babies.

"Breastfeeding is the only case where the biological norm is expressed as the exception rather than the rule," she continued.

What is important, Lesley Backhouse says, is communicating to new mums that breastfeeding is free and easy, and the normal way to feed a baby.

The Department of Health is in agreement when it comes to the benefits of breastfeeding, but says it is not their slogan.

"Breastfeeding is good for babies, good for mothers and incredibly convenient. It's crucial that mothers get the support they need to make breastfeeding a success for them and their baby," a spokesperson said.

NHS leaflets given to pregnant women and new mothers say that breastfeeding protects against obesity, allergies, asthma and diabetes.

Previous studies have shown that babies who are breast-fed may be less likely to become obese children.

Breast-fed infants also have a lower risk of gastroenteritis and respiratory and ear infections, research shows.

Latching on

The advantages also extend to women who breastfeed. They may lose the weight they gained in pregnancy faster and they also lower their risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer, experts say.

Figures show that eight in 10 women in England start off breastfeeding but only one in five is still breastfeeding when their baby is six months old.

In a survey of 3,000 mothers, four in 10 struggled to get to grips with breastfeeding their newborn.

Janet Fyle, midwifery advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, says she supports the view of The Breastfeeding Network that the "breast is best" slogan is outdated.

"It's time to normalise breastfeeding and create the right conditions for mothers to breastfeed in comfort, wherever they go, whether that's in a restaurant or a shop when they're out and about," she said.

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