More than two-fifths of mothers do not think they are given enough information about breastfeeding, a survey has suggested.
NHS guidance recommends that all mothers attempt to breastfeed their babies for the first six months of their lives.
Yet a new poll by the Royal College of Midwives and parenting website Netmums found 43% of 500 women surveyed did not feel as though they were given enough support and guidance to help them.
“First-time mums need to be shown how to breastfeed and you don’t learn instantly”
Meanwhile, a separate poll of 2,000 midwives found that 57% said they “would like to do more” to provide infant feeding support and help mothers.
A quarter said there is not usually enough time or resources to support new mothers with important aspects of breastfeeding such as latching-on and correct positioning.
RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said: “We are facing a backlash and demonisation of women breastfeeding in public, with several recent high profile media cases where mothers were told to stop breastfeeding.
“We are told constantly by mothers that they gave up breastfeeding before they wanted to because of a lack of support and information from health professionals, including midwives,” she said.
She warned: “It is clear from our research findings that many women will not be getting the help that they need to breastfeed because of time and resources constraints.
“We feel that breastfeeding is no longer getting the attention it deserves as a vital public health issue. There is no longer a national breastfeeding coordinator to coordinate England’s strategy or a national strategy, while Scotland and Wales have strategies.
“The financial strains that have been put on the NHS means we are seeing overstretched and demoralised midwives and maternity support workers struggling to maintain breastfeeding levels.”
As part of its Pressure Points campaign, the RCM released a new report on breastfeeding and has called for more support for women − whether they choose to feed their baby via breast or bottle.
The college is also calling for 4,800 more midwives in England.
Julia McGinely, director of parent support at Netmums, said: “Women are missing out on breastfeeding and babies are missing out on the best start in life as midwives are too overstretched to provide the right care.
“National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines recommend the first feed within an hour of birth, but midwives rushing to help several women on a busy labour ward simply aren’t always able to fulfil this.
“First-time mums need to be shown how to breastfeed and you don’t learn instantly, it can take several tries to get it right,” she said.
“Government guidelines say babies should breastfeed for the first six months, but to have any chance of hitting this target, there needs to be proper investment in more health professionals to support mums,” she added.