6 May 2007
Harriet Harman MP joined Unicef Ambassador Jemima Khan and a coalition of more than 30 not-for-profit organisations, including five royal colleges, to call for more support to raise the relatively low levels of breastfeeding in the UK. Harriet attended the launch of the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition at the House of Commons on 16 May.
The Breastfeeding Manifesto includes seven specific points for Government action, which would improve the health of UK babies, reduce health inequalities and save the NHS millions of pounds a year. The launch took place during National Breastfeeding Awareness Week.
Harriet Harman MP said: “Improved breastfeeding rates could make a real difference to the health of babies and their mothers and save the health service millions each year. For example, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) estimates that a 10% increase in breastfeeding in England would save the NHS around £5.6 million in the treatment of gastroenteritis, ear infections and asthma in young children.”
Unicef Ambassador Jemima Khan said: “The WHO recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life (and continue to breastfeed alongside the introduction of solids for up to two years and beyond), yet sadly less than 2% of UK babies are exclusively breastfed for 6 months. The Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative is working with the health service so mothers understand more about breastfeeding and are enabled to breastfeed if they wish to. This is a vitally important health issue and we need commitment and resourcing from Government to ensure all hospital and community staff receive the right level of training.”
The Breastfeeding Coalition, which has already received cross party support from more than 180 MPs, and is calling on all 646 MPs to sign up to the Manifesto. England footballer Theo Walcott and model Laura Bailey have already pledged their support. People are encouraged to pledge their support via the website www.breastfeedingmanifesto.org.uk
Alison Baum, a spokesperson for the Coalition added: “The power of the Manifesto lies in its joint ownership. With so many partners speaking with one voice we look forward to a society where women, irrespective of their socio-economic background, will be enabled to make fully informed choices about how to feed their babies and, crucially, be fully supported in their decision.
“Our campaign is just getting started and I encourage everyone, young and old, male and female to visit the website, sign-up and send one of our MP lobby postcards.”
The Breastfeeding Manifesto is calling on Government to:
· Implement the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ‘Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding’.
· Implement NICE postnatal care guidance for maternity care providers, including ensuring the Unicef Baby Friendly initiative training becomes a minimum standard in all hospitals and in the community.
· Improve training for health professionals offering help and advice to breastfeeding mothers.
· Work with employers to create a more supportive environment for breastfeeding mothers.
· Develop policy and practice to support breastfeeding in public places.
· Include breastfeeding education in the curriculum.
· Adopt the WHO International code of Marketing of Breast Milk substitutes.