Mothers in Shetland have taken to breastfeeding more enthusiastically than their counterparts on the mainland, with rates that exceed the national average for a third year in a row.
According to figures released by ISD Scotland this week, the number of Shetland mothers exclusively breastfeeding their babies at the health visitor’s first visit increased from 50.9 per cent last year to 57.6 per cent this year. This is well above this year’s national average of 46.8 per cent.
The number of women who chose to mix feed (breastfeeding and formula feeding) in this period also increased from 59.8 per cent last year to 69.6 per cent this year, again above the national average of 36.3 per cent.
This trend continues at the six to eight week visit where there was a rise in the figures for both breastfed and mixed fed babies by 7.3 per cent and 9.8 per cent respectively against last year.
Shetland figures were again above the national average, with only 37.1 per cent of women exclusively breastfeeding and only a quarter mixed feeding.
According to NHS Shetland, local figures show continuing commitment in the promotion and support of breastfeeding by maternity staff and health visitors.
Director of public health Sarah Taylor said: “I am really impressed by Shetland’s high breastfeeding rates which are a tribute to the women of Shetland and the staff who support them.
Breastfeeding gives babies such a good start in life and is such a rewarding experience for mums. It is really important that we encourage women who may not be initially enthusiastic, and support those who run into difficulty and need that extra help to get them to successfully breastfeed.
“These figures reflect the effort that the maternity and health visiting teams have put into supporting women in their choice to breastfeed.”
Supporting breastfeeding has long been established in NHS Shetland with the maternity ward being accredited with the UNICEF Baby Friendly award since 2003. NHS Shetland is also in the process of applying for stage one of the UNICEF Community Baby Friendly award; this will help in further promoting and supporting breastfeeding mothers out with the hospital setting and within the wider community.
In the past year NHS Shetland has invested in training local women with the breastfeeding network, who have breastfed themselves, to support others to breastfeed through peer support. There are now 14 women trained by Breastfeeding Network as peer supporters, four of whom are now undertaking the advanced training. These peer support workers will work alongside the maternity and health visiting teams. Further training for women to become peer supporters is planned for the future. If you are interested you can contact Nicola Blance (01595) 743389 for more information.