HC Deb 25 June 1998 vol 314 cc583-4W
Mr. Maclean

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what initiatives the Government took to promote National Breastfeeding Week on 17 to 23 May. [47219]

Ms Jowell

National Breastfeeding Awareness Week has been run since 1993. It aims to raise awareness of the health benefits of breastfeeding, increase the social acceptance of breastfeeding and to promote support for breastfeeding mothers. The week is promoted by the National Network of Breastfeeding Co-ordinators (NNBC), which the Department funds.

This year the Department funded and provided the publicity materials which could be used during the week. These included posters and postcards with the slogan "Free fast food for babies", aimed at promoting breastfeeding and increasing its social acceptability. Materials were disseminated on request and in total 30,000 posters and 102,000 postcards were sent to health professionals, breastfeeding promotion groups and members of the public. The Department also funded a promotional advertorial in Pregnancy and Birth magazine.

The week aims principally to galvanise action at local level where the NNBC are instrumental in organising local activities and events which disseminate the messages on the benefits of breastfeeding to a wide audience. For example, this year some co-ordinators worked with schools during the week to promote breastfeeding whilst others used questionnaires about the availability of breastfeeding facilities to engage people's attention.

In addition to the local activities of the NNBC, I launched the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund United Kingdom Baby Friendly Initiative's (UKBFI) new community initiative to mark the start of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week. This initiative centres around a seven point plan which aims to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in community health care settings and will complement the UKBFI hospital initiative. I took this opportunity to announce that the Department will be funding, subject to contract, research costing £225,000 which aims to identify some of the barriers to breastfeeding amongst women in low income groups, where breastfeeding rates are lowest.

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