2 out of 3 people think there is no difference between formula and breast milk

Channel 4 investigates the UK’s attitudes towards breastfeeding to find out why so many women feel unable or afraid to feed.

A photo of Kate Quilton breastfeeding her baby for documentary, Dispatches: Breastfeeding Uncovered

Pregnancy blog by Tommy’s midwife Amanda 30/07/2018

A recent study from Swansea University found that two thirds of people believe there is no difference between formula and breast milk.

The UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, with just 34% of babies being breastfed at 6 months. It’s thought that this is due to a lack of knowledge about its benefits, and a fear of breastfeeding in public.

A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary exploring these issues airs tonight at 8pm.

Kate Quilton, presenter of ‘Dispatches: Breastfeeding Uncovered’, breastfed in public for the documentary and spoke about feeling like ‘a social outcast’. She commented on some of the negative reactions she faced, including raised eyebrows, tutting and whispers.

Professor Amy Brown, University of Swansea, said, “The statistics show that you have a group of women who has a bad experience, so someone actually says something to them in public. But then there's a much larger group, who fear that they will – so the underlying worry is that someone is going to do something.”

During the documentary, Quilton also meets with scientists at Imperial College London to find out about the living components within breast milk and how it has evolved to meet the needs of babies and infants.

Raising awareness of breastfeeding benefits

The well-evidenced benefits of breast milk cannot be overstated.

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and obesity for mums. And there are many proven benefits for baby too, including a reduced risk of:

  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs)
  • childhood leukaemia
  • obesity
  • cardiovascular disease
  • infections generally.

Formula milk does not provide the same protection from illness for baby and has no physical health benefits for mum. This alone makes it very different.

Addressing the public

If the public are reacting negatively towards breastfeeding mums, as the documentary suggests, it is a very new phenomenon. It just didn’t happen years ago, and it's unclear when the change happened.

It is a challenge we really need to overcome as a society. Mums should not feel vulnerable when feeding a hungry baby; they should feel comfortable and empowered, no matter where or how they choose to feed their babies.

Only then will we be able to improve our breastfeeding rates in the UK.

More information about feeding

Find out where to go for breastfeeding support.

Read more about feeding choices.

More about breastfeeding

More pregnancy news and blogs

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