Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond is urging health managers to fund breastfeeding tuition for GPs in an attempt to encourage more mothers in the city to feed their children naturally.
Flick will take on the issue after visiting a breastfeeding group at Somerstown Children’s Sure Start Centre last week where she was told that only 46% of new mothers in Portsmouth are still breastfeeding after two months.
The charity Breastfeeding Network, which runs the group Flick visited, has designed GP training to help raise the figure, but only two surgeries in the city have signed up. Flick has now written to the local Clinical Commissioning Group to urge them to take action and get all surgeries on board.
National breastfeeding rates in the UK are the worst in the developed world with only 0.5% of mothers still naturally feeding their infant after a year. This compares to 27% in the US and 23% in Germany.
The health and financial costs to mother and baby are well documented with formula fed babies more prone to infections and to longer-term issues such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
The financial cost is also substantial as it’s about £540 a year to feed a baby formula, including other costs such as bottles and sterilisers.
‘All the medical evidence points to the fact that breast is best, breast is good for mothers and good for the pocket for families in Portsmouth, so I think it’s absolutely crucial that more is done to get more mothers in the city feeding their babies naturally,’ said Flick, who is vice-chair of the Infant Feeding All Party Parliamentary Group.
‘The low rates in Portsmouth are mirrored across the country and I wonder what the cost to the NHS is when you take into account the amount of GP visits for formula-fed babies with tummy bugs or ear infections when breast milk offers antibodies against such problems?
‘The work that the breastfeeding group is doing is just fabulous and its through their help that many women are breastfeeding and giving their children the best start in life.
‘I know that not all women can or want to breastfeed and, of course, it’s a choice but most are eager to do so and are simply falling through the net through a lack of advice and support in those crucial first few weeks when problems can arise.
‘Having a GP trained to help - that mothers could turn to, would be a massive boost in Portsmouth and I urge the CCG to look long and hard at making sure the cash is available to get training courses into surgeries.
‘I also would also urge the CCG to ensure that the Breastfeeding Network continues to have its funding. It is doing a wonderful job for women and children in Portsmouth.’
Flick added is going to write to the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust asking them to speed up security accreditation at Queen Alexandra Hospital for Breastfeeding Network volunteers so they can go into maternity and help new mums with getting breast feeding established.