Breastfeeding rates are low in the UK, where approximately one quarter of infants receive a breastmilk substitute (BMS) in the first week of life. We investigated the reasons for early BMS use in two large maternity units in the UK, in order to understand the reasons for the high rate of early BMS use in this setting. Data were collected through infant feeding records, as well as maternal and midwife surveys in 2016. During 2016, 28% of infants received a BMS supplement prior to discharge from the hospital maternity units with only 10% supplementation being clinically indicated. There was wide variation in BMS initiation rates between different midwives, which was associated with ward environment and midwife educational level. Specific management factors associated with non-clinically indicated initiation of BMS were the absence of skin-to-skin contact within an hour of delivery (p
= 0.01), and no attendance at an antenatal breastfeeding discussion (p
= 0.01). These findings suggest that risk of initiating a BMS during postnatal hospital stay is largely modifiable. Concordance with UNICEF Baby Friendly 10 steps, attention to specific features of the postnatal ward working environment, and the targeting of midwives and mothers with poor educational status may all lead to improved exclusive breastfeeding rates at hospital discharge.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited