Students Staff

14 October 2011

Breastfeeding has positive and measurable impact

Researchers from the Institute for Social and Economic Research have told an audience of policymakers, health practitioners and charities their research indicates the length of time a child is breastfed has a positive and measurable impact on its health, cognition and behaviour.

The findings suggest policy should focus on long term support for breastfeeding mothers to increase the numbers of babies that are exclusively breastfed for up to six months. The team also argue that initiation and duration of breastfeeding should be included as a measure in the Government’s social mobility strategy, which is currently in its consultation phase.

The special event at the British Academy was chaired by Dr Miriam Stoppard, one of the UK’s best known health and childcare experts. The keynote speaker was Daniel Poulter MP, a practising doctor and chair of the All Party Group on Maternity. In his speech Dr Poulter explored the successful increase in breastfeeding initiation rates across the UK over the last decade, and what changes in the Health and Social Care Bill could mean for breastfeeding support going forward.

Four ISER researchers presented their research findings:

  • Dr Emilia Del Bono, principal investigator of an ESRC-funded research project into breastfeeding and its impact on children, mother’s and employers, presented findings on the Baby Friendly Initiative and how it has helped to increase breastfeeding initiation rates among those mothers least likely to breastfeed their children.
  • Professor Amanda Sacker showed findings that suggest that breastfeeding can protect against infections in infants that might lead to hospitalisation (for example, diarrhoea and lower respiratory tract infections).
  • Professor Yvonne Kelly presented results from a project that explores whether there is a link between breastfeeding and parent-reported socio-emotional difficulties in five-year-olds.
  • Dr Maria Iacovou explored findings on breastfeeding and cognitive development and concluded by explaining the problems inherent in looking for a causal link between breastfeeding and later life outcomes.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion involving Dr Emilia Del Bono, Belinda Phipps, CEO of the National Childbirth Trust, Janet Fyle Professional Policy Advisor for the Royal College of Midwives and Alison Baum, CEO of Best Beginnings.

...more news releases