A little while ago I wrote a post on why there is such an overwhelming push to increase breast-feeding rates in the UK. I have a short postscript to this. My post was about the fact that breast-feeding rates are an indicator of poverty and that therefore increasing the rates of breast-feeding is an indicator that poverty is reduced (while acknowledging that in itself, breast-feeding or not of course says nothing about the disposable income of the parents!)
A new project I'll be working on, which relates to reducing child poverty in Glasgow and East Dunbartonshire through making local services work for children and families who live in severe and persistent poverty, gave me access to breast-feeding rates in some of the poorest areas of the UK. The percentage of mothers breastfeeding at their 6-8 week check-up varies in these localities between 10 and 14 %.
Although I knew that the rates would be below national average, I was absolutely shocked about how low these figures are. In many countries, breast-feeding rates are 95% at 6-8 weeks. I felt it would be useful to share this percentage to illustrate how low breast-feeding rates can go if parents live in multiple deprived areas. The connections are complex and there is no real answer, and I look forward to working within this new projects with families and children, listening to them and contributing to making local services work specifically for children and families living in poverty. My suggestion to include antenatal service access in the project has been taken on board.
The data hopefully demonstrates that the push to breast-feed is not to do with individual situations, but the bigger picture. 10% breast-feeding rates have to be unacceptable. Still, we have to acknowledge that behind these statistics are real people with real choices they made, and real reasons to choose not to breast-feed.
On the topic of child poverty, I strongly recommend the three part series "How the other half live" which is currently being shown on Channel 4 on Thursdays, 9pm. Check out www.savethechildren.org.uk for background info on child poverty in the UK (1 in 3 children in the UK grow up in poverty, that's 4 million). The first episode shown yesterday was very moving and gave an insight on the extent of income inequalities in the UK.