Breastfeeding in Wales

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Breastfeeding statistics in Wales

Information on breastfeeding at birth for Wales and its Health Boards is published annually using data from the National Community Child Health Database (NCCHD).

The percentage of babies being breastfed at 10 days old is one of a set of maternity indicators which have been developed to monitor the 2011 Strategic Vision for Maternity Services in Wales; all of the maternity indicators are also included as part of Public Health Wales’ Early Years Programme. Improved definitions for data items relating to infant feeding have been introduced and all Health Boards are now collecting data on breastfeeding at 10 days. Work is continuing to improve data completeness.

Breastfeeding policy in Wales

The Building a Brighter Future: Early Years and Childcare Plan (2013) brings together priorities, policies and programmes that impact on or influence children and their families in the early years, and identifies the role of partners in the improvement process to increase the life chances and outcomes of all children in Wales. The Plan also committed the Welsh Government to developing an Early Years Outcomes Framework to support the annual reporting cycle of the Plan.

The Early Years Outcomes Framework (2015) is aimed at those who lead, commission and deliver services for children and their families from pregnancy up to age seven years. The Framework includes suggested population indicators and performance/service quality measures to improve outcomes for children in the early years in Wales. For breastfeeding, this includes the percentage of mothers breastfeeding at 10 days and at six months of age.

Recent changes to the collection of breastfeeding data in Wales via the Child Health Database will enable the effective capture of robust data for this outcome, and more broadly for other stages throughout the first six months of a child’s life. This will also facilitate better monitoring and service planning more widely.

In 2014, Transforming Health Improvement in Wales undertook a review of all health improvement programmes including the Breastfeeding Programme. The review highlighted the need for breastfeeding to be embedded as part of a systems-based approach to achieve the biggest impact, provide a clear focus and embed actions to promote and normalise breastfeeding in communities where prevalence is low. As a result of this, work is currently ongoing to develop a revised systems approach to deliver improved outcomes in relation to breastfeeding for the population of Wales.

Health Boards in Wales have been set goals to achieve accreditation through the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative for hospital, community and neonatal services. In 2019, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board launched its Infant Feeding Strategic Plan, to promote and support optimal nutrition for babies and infants and ensure families are supported in making informed choices in relation to feeding and nurturing their child. It includes a commitment to achieve Baby Friendly accreditation in all hospital and community services.

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Breastfeeding in Northern Ireland

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