There is clear evidence that breastfeeding offers health and social benefits to both mother and baby . These health benefits are sustained in the short and long term, thereby making breastfeeding a key public health issue . Breast milk provides a baby with perfect nutrition and everything they need for growth and brain development . It also plays an important role in protecting against childhood obesity together with the development of asthma and diabetes and reducing childhood mortality. In addition, mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop pre-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis. They are also less likely to suffer from anaemia, brittle bone disease and are more likely to lose the weight they put on during pregnancy .


The Government has selected the target of increasing breastfeeding rates, especially in disadvantaged groups (such as those living in areas of social deprivation and teenage mothers), in an attempt to reduce the ‘health gap’. The World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Department of Health (DoH) and National Health Service (NHS) consistently advocate and promote the health benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and infant. Improving breastfeeding prevalence, and reducing health inequalities, will depend on knowing local populations well, mapping service provision, assessing evidence of what works and addressing service gaps therefore a breastfeeding needs assessment was produced.


Babies who are not breastfed are five times more likely to be admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis. A 10% increase in breastfeeding prevalence at 6 months would avoid 1,700 cases of otitis media, 3,900 cases of gastroenteritis and 1,500 cases of asthma a year.8 There is also evidence to suggest that breastfeeding may have long-term benefits in adulthood, such as lowering blood pressure and total cholesterol levels together with protecting mothers against breast cancer. The relative risk of breast cancer decreases by 4.3% for every 12 months of breastfeeding. Treatments for any of these health conditions would incur further costs to the public purse. Not breastfeeding is therefore costly, not only in terms of consequences for mothers, babies and families, but to a range of services charged with meeting their needs. Increasing breastfeeding prevalence therefore contributes to reductions in health service costs.


Last updated: 2018-12-09 23:46:04
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1. Main Issues

Breastfeeding has been shown to have a myriad of health benefits for both child and mother. The child will see a reduced risk in everything from childhood leukaemia to sudden infant death syndrome, and even cardiovascular disease in adult life, and the mother will reduce her risk of condition including osteoporosis and breast cancer. With this is mind, Hartlepool’s breastfeeding at initiation figures are particularly concerning.

The 2016/17 Breastfeeding at initiation show that Hartlepool has the lowest rate in the whole of England. Hartlepool’s figure of 37.9% of babies initiating breastfeeding within 48 hours of birth is not only the lowest figure in England, but the lowest level Hartlepool has achieved in 7 years.

Hartlepool are on a 2 year downward trend, which has seen it fall from it 2014/15 peak of 49.6%. This means that in 2 years the rate has fallen by 11.7%. The difference between Hartlepool’s rate and the England average in 2014/15 was 24.7%, but with the England average at a 7 year high of 74.5% in 2016/17 the gap is now 36.6%. If we compare Hartlepool to those authorities in England deemed most similar to Hartlepool, its Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) nearest neighbours, then the difference is clear to see.

Within Hartlepool, the difference between the most deprived areas and the least deprived areas for breastfeeding initiation is 12.4%.

For children aged 6-8 weeks the latest data for Hartlepool will be available in early 2019.


Last updated: 07/12/18

2. Current Services

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Last updated: 09/12/18

3. Future Intentions

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Last updated: 09/12/18