Scottish mothers are breastfeeding for longer

By Julie Griffiths on 21 February 2018 Breastfeeding

A new report reveals that more mothers in Scotland are continuing to breastfeed up to six months after birth.

The Scottish maternal and infant nutrition survey 2017 found 43% of mums are still breastfeeding their babies at six months, compared to 32% in 2010.

It also reveals that complementary foods are being introduced to infants later – 46% at least six months – which is an important development for helping prevent obesity.

RCM director for Scotland Mary Ross-Davie said that while she welcomes this report, it shows that there is still work to be done. ‘I am encouraged to see that the numbers of women wishing to breastfeed and successfully breastfeeding continues to increase in Scotland,’ she said.

‘However, inequalities between the least and most deprived women in our society persist, with women living with deprivation least likely to breastfeed. This highlights the need to continue and redouble our efforts to support women in all communities to understand the benefits of breastfeeding and to be supported to breastfeed if they chose to do so,’ Mary added.

The survey highlights that while many of the respondents experienced some challenges with breastfeeding at some point, the great majority of these women (89%) said that they got the help and support they needed.

‘This is testament to the great work that midwives, MSWs and peer supporters do across Scotland every day to support women to successfully breastfeed,’ Mary said.

She added: ‘It is of concern that around a quarter (23%) of women still describe being made to feel uncomfortable when needing to breastfeed their baby in a public place in Scotland. It is up to us all to ensure that women feel able to go about their daily lives with their babies and feed them when they need, wherever that be. No woman should feel concerned about leaving the house with their baby because they are worried about where and when they can feed their baby.’

The survey reveals the nutritional habits of Scottish women prior to getting pregnant and shows that just over half of respondents (53%) reported taking folic acid. Mary suggested that more support is needed to improve women’s health before they become pregnant.

She said: ‘This includes helping to ensure that women are aware of the benefits of going into pregnancy in the best possible health: through having a healthy weight, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol consumption and taking folic acid supplements.  

‘These messages need to start at home and in schools so that young women are aware of the benefits of maximising their own health for the benefit of their future children as well as for themselves.’  

Mary added that it also highlights the need more investment in pre-conception care. ‘This is fundamentally a message about better public health, about encouraging a healthier population and about healthier babies who will be healthier adults,’ she said.  

Read the Scottish maternal and infant nutrition survey 2017 here.