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Research has demonstrated that breastfeeding can play an important role in reducing health inequalities. Breastfeeding has many benefits for mother and baby including:

  • Promoting emotional attachment between babies and their mothers.
  • Reduce the risk for babies of respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, ear infections, allergic disease and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
  • Improving neurological development.
  • Lower the risk of tooth decay and cardiovascular disease in later life.
  • Lowering the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures/reduced bone density for women who breastfeed.


It is widely acknowledged that health visitors have an important role in supporting breastfeeding. Health visitors, as public health nurses, alongside supporting individual mothers can lead the implementation and delivery of evidence-based public health programmes in their localities.

Health visitors can ensure a whole system approach to promoting breastfeeding by implementing the UNICEF Baby Friendly Standards and supporting other settings such as Children’s Centres to become baby friendly including training for early year’s staff. It is essential that health visitors have the underpinning knowledge skills and attitudes to support breastfeeding.

Maintaining competence

Watch a video of Liz Ginty, infant feeding advisor at Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, talking about the importance of breastfeeding and how health visitors need to maintain competence through continued professional development.

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