Cuts to maternity services are a key barrier to breastfeeding, researchers at health data analysts SSentif have said.

Nationally, a third of women who stop breastfeeding do so six-eight weeks after giving birth, yet SSentif believe there is a correlation between this drop off and areas that have experienced maternity budget cuts.

In Sandwell, for example, 56.4 per cent of new mothers took up breastfeeding between 2009 and 2011. Of these, two-thirds stopped between six to eight weeks. During the two years in question, maternity services were cut by 20 per cent in the area, Ssentif claimed.

This is in contrast to Westminster PCT, where spending on maternity services increased in the timeframe. Here, just 6.7 per cent of new mums stopped breastfeeding between the first six-eight weeks after giving birth.

Judy Aldred, managing director of SSentif, told the Daily Mail: "The Department for Health places huge emphasis on the importance of breastfeeding and says there is a clear case for investing in services to support breastfeeding as part of a local child health strategy.

"However, this seems at odds with the reduction in spending and staffing we have found.

"We have also noted a tremendous amount of staff upheaval as a result of the current restructuring and our data shows that nearly 50 per cent of health visitors have had to find new positions as their organisations have disappeared.

"It is likely this will have impacted on the service they have been able to provide and resulted in a lack of continuity for new mothers."

Story posted by Robert Mair on 16 July 2012.