Boost In British Breastfeeding Could Save NHS £40 Million A Year

Demonstrator Carla Mastroianni feeds her baby Sienna during a protest in support of breastfeeding in public, outside Claridge's hotel in London December 6, 2014. Higher breasfeeding rates could save the NHS £40m annually. REUTERS/Neil Hall Neil Hall/REUTERS

Increasing the U.K.'s low breastfeeding rates could save the NHS £40 million a year, a leading public health academic has claimed.

According to recent figures, Britain has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.

Amy Brown, a professor at Swansea University, says a growing number of British parents are choosing to feed their newborns with formula milk, despite increased risks of gastroenteritis and respiratory illnesses.

Brown, who will address the British Science Festival on the issue on September 9, insists more funding and better support for new mothers is needed if attitudes are to change.

Brown said: "Breastfeeding should be normal behavior. However, in this country it sparks high levels of debate in the press and online—much of which can be highly critical of breastfeeding or examples of when a mother has experienced a problem when feeding her child this way.

"Despite the promotion that "breast is best," we do not follow it up with actions to support new mothers. More people here believe that smacking is acceptable than believe that breastfeeding in public is okay.

"If we could raise breastfeeding rates by just two-thirds, we could save the NHS £40 million a year as excess appointments for babies fed on formula milk, who are more prone to illness, would no longer be needed."

Earlier this year, figures published in The Lancet medical journal revealed that only one in every 200 British children is breastfed until the age of 12 months.

Brown added the figures were depressing given a 98 percent rate in Scandinavian countries and 27 percent in the US, where mothers can only get four weeks maternity leave before returning to work.