The number of new mothers' breastfeeding is on the up, new figures released by the NHS Information Centre have revealed.

More than eight in 10 women now start their babies on breast milk, compared to only six in ten in 1990.

The figures, based on a survey of 15,600 women don't show how many women are still breastfeeding six months after the baby is born.

The news has been met with cautious optimism by the Royal College of Midwives.

Commenting on the statistics, Jane Munro, Quality and Audit Development Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said:  "The increase in the number of women starting to breastfeed and the reduction in smoking before and during pregnancy is good news for the health of the nation.  It is a clear indication of the success of campaigning on public health in these areas. 

"These are, however, early findings and do not give us the important information about how long women carry on breastfeeding.  This is a crucial issue because we know that many women stop breastfeeding when they leave hospital. This is why it is so important that they are able to get advice and support from their midwife, and that there are enough midwives with the time to offer these women the help they need.

"These are encouraging results and show that we are moving in the right direction, but there is still much to be done. Because of these improvements it is very disappointing that the Government have stopped funding a National Breastfeeding Awareness Week in England. We do not want to see the ground we have gained lost."

National Breastfeeding Awareness Week was launched by a breastfeeding flashmob that descended on the Trafford Centre in Manchester. There, more than 100 women took over the centres cafes to breastfeed, with the aim of raising awareness of the issue.

Posted by Robert Mair on 22.6.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com