Guernsey ‘has some of the lowest breast-feeding rates in world’

THE Director of public health wants to see a strategy put in place after reports breast-feeding rates in Guernsey are some of the lowest in the world.

THE Director of public health wants to see a strategy put in place after reports breast-feeding rates in Guernsey are some of the lowest in the world.

Dr Stephen Bridgman, pictured, has recommended a strategy should be developed to increase the rates of initiation and continuation of breast-feeding. He said the island's low rate has consequences on the health of infants, mothers and the State's finances.

'Despite out best efforts our rates are some of the lowest in the world. Guernsey breast-feeding initiation rates are comparable to those in the south west of England and the English average, but lower than those in London,' he said.

'However, both Guernsey and the UK are near the bottom of the international league tables of babies who have ever been breastfed.'

Dr Bridgman said the need to increase breast-feeding rates was identified in the Guernsey Children and Young People's Plan 2011-13.

Comments for: "Guernsey ‘has some of the lowest breast-feeding rates in world’"


I wonder how much this is due to mum's reticence to feed their babes in public places? Any one any idea how many such places, ie, cafes are willing to 'allow' a mother to breastfeed on their premises.


Stiletto this isn't 20 years ago. I've seen women breast feeding in various places on the island with no one batting an eye lid. I think quite a few people secretly would like this to be the case as it shows just how 'old fashioned' Guernsey can be sometimes but I haven't seen evidence of this. I don't think anyone would DARE tell off a woman for breast feeding in their establishment. In fact I find Guernsey to be more open minded of such practices.

It's more likely due to the pressures of mothers having to go back to work. I should imagine that those countries which have considerably higher breastfeeding percentages are most likely countries with generous maternity benefits.


I have to say that having gone through the hospital and NCT antenatal courses in the last year, there is a big emphasis on breastfeeding but I think this could have been covered more.

My wife had an issue with breastfeeding where through sheer exhaustion and having a hungry baby the paediatrician told us to use formula as it was stressing mum out and not doing baby any good. This was the right call for us and although she did express our daughter has been bottle fed almost exclusively since.

I have heard stories of new mums being made to feel incredibly guilty if they don’t breastfeed and we have felt almost looked down upon by some health professionals because my wife did not breastfeed for long – there is enough to deal with without having to feel guilty about damaging baby’s health.

From a new dads point of view and having heard and read a fair bit on this topic, when breastfeeding is covered in these classes, the difficulties seem to be emphasised (e.g. mastitis etc) more than the positives/health benefits to mum and baby. It’s a case for some mums that they have been told it will be difficult and they go with that mindset and unfortunately (and wrongly) feel a failure if they don’t succeed.

At the end of the day though, the mums we still know from the antenatal courses have had to cease breastfeeding earlier than they would like due to having to go back to work – this I think is the main reason.


A very emotive subject.

I don't think it's a case of premises allowing you to feed on their premises, I have to say if I was out and baby needed feeding, then I fed them and I have to say maybe I have a thick skin but I never heard or noticed anyone openly being negative about me doing so, I figure people would rather that, than have their meal etc spoilt by a hungry baby.

I have to say that lack of support from medical professionals really does sadden me and I think that Jeff hits the nail on the head when he says that teaching about the negautives can make people go into breastfeeding assuming they will run into difficulties. I breastfed both of my children and have luckily never encountered mastitus etc.. I have experienced a health professional telling me to give my 6 week old baby formula to make her sleep through the night and I know I'm not the only one to receive such advice. Therefore, I feel that the hard work of some professionals is being undone by others.

Sarah B

My first daughter was bottle fed, although that was entirely due to 'dad wants to be involved' than me not wanting to. My second daughter I breast fed, by about day 3 I was tired, miserable, sore and ready to give up due to what felt like 24/7 feeding, and was adamant I was going to have to give up, even after that days midwife visit. If it hadn't have been for the coincidence of the midwife who visited on day 4 being the main breast feeding counsellor (who was BRILLIANT) there's no way I'd even have managed another day. Turns out I wasn't getting baby latched on quite properly and so she wasnt managing to feed as quickly as she could have been. No looking back after that, I carried on without a bottle in sight until solids at six months, and finally stopped completely when she was 13 months (only having one feed each night by that point I'll add).

My first daughter had awful eczema, my second never had a trace, and from memory no stomach upsets, and fewer colds etc.

The info is there for all mums on the benefits for baby (and mum) the only thing I can think of that could be stopping more from doing it to start is embarrassment. Those who stop early could possibly do with more guidance in the early days. The MW I saw on day 3 didn't suggest an issue with latching on being the cause of the problem, but the MW/breast feeding counsellor knew as soon as I sai, I guess due to having more experience in this field.

Guern abroad

Are there proper lactation support groups in Guernsey. Those who can really help new Mums learn how to latch properly and get the baby feeding, also mentioned in post #4

Whilst I can not comment personally from my reading I observed that with the right support new Mums overcame issues. Breastfed babies invariably need feeding more often which is natural. Breat milk is the expected food a baby's system expects. The right breast pump can also help keep supply going whilst at work, and it can be stored in the fridge before taking home.


As a local Mum of a one yr old and expecting his sib imminently, I would have to agree with Amme. I seldom encountered any negative reactions when BFing my son in public. On those rare occasions when I did, it tended to be elderly people who took offence. The biggest problem I faced and one with which many local parents will identify with is the lack of a sensible or supportive approach to maternity leave locally. I was not entitled to any paid maternity leave whatsoever, and for many of us this is the case, unfortunately necessitating a much earlier return to work then we may choose and ultimately this will often lead to the cessation of BFIng much sooner than is natural or wanted. Even pumping religiously doesn't always keep things going the way one would wish. I was lucky that my work allowed me to shuffle things around to try and continue to do so, but after very few months it ground to a halt despite every trick in the book. Separation from baby has a lot to answer for.

I am also a health professional and frequently have the privilege of looking after expectant mothers at all points during their exciting journey into motherhood. So from this more objective point of view, I hear about other Mums and mothers-to-be's experience of feeding advice. Sadly, there is a great deal of conflicting advice being given to them locally by well meaning but under informed professionals purely due to lack of experience or understanding on their parts. I am constantly shocked by the number of Mum's who give an absolute "No" to the question of whether they intend to, or have been, BFing. Given all the evidence as to why it is such a good thing to do for both them and their baby, why are they not at least considering the option?

Here in Guernsey we have some excellent resources, particularly one highly experienced midwife who is our local BFing lead and expert (I certainly benefitted from her input over and over again) and a very active branch of the NCT who work tirelessly to prmote BFing and have a dedicated counsellor and also set up very regular BFing coffee mornings as well as advertising "Breast feeding welcome" establishments and constantly trying to recruit more (this is not to say that mothers shouldn't feel free to BF elsewhere also).

It is a pity that the message regarding the benefits of BFing is not reaching all expectant and new Mums as it is not being delivered consistently by others such as some GP's and health visitors (many are very good) but some clearly need more training themselves and have outdated ideas going back to when BFing was seen as primitive! We certainly need to do more here to ensure that the right information AND practical support is getting across to new Mums to encourage and enable them to BF if they so choose for as long as they wish to regardless of their circumstances. This would have positive benefits for the infant and mothers' health with far reaching effects and also the family's own finances and the entire local economy. Nobody loses. I really hope that Dr Bridgman's proposal for a strategy in this regard does soon come to fruition.


One of the biggest obstacles to breatfeeding is the fact that mothers have to return to work so early. I know mothers who have tried to breastfeed during their lunch hour in the car.

We have our priorities wrong - it should be mandatory that employers provide some level of maternity support. Don't propose this be 100% of salary but something like 50% in first 3 months and 25% for another 3 months. Without this it is very difficult for people to be able to afford children. For most companies this would be affordable (finance industry in particular).

Before the anti-children brigade start - I believe that as a civilised Island we should be supporting those that decide to reproduce, not making life harder and harder.

sarnia expat

I think everyone knows by now that BF'ing is best - but not everyone wants to do it either at home or in public. These women should not be castigated for their choices. These women should equally be supported; which sometimes is NOT the case in Guernsey.

There is no excuse whatsoever for anyone to be offended if you choose to breastfeed your child in public, done correctly you don't need to wiggle your flesh around and upset the horses!

What I find hard to take is the stupid women who continue to smoke during pregnancy and who care not one jot about their baby. It is these women who need educating.

Devil's Advocate

Sarah B has hit the nail on the head - my sister had a similar experience and once she sussed out the latching issue (with good advice the same as Sarah) she said BFing was dead easy and convenient, no hassle with bottles and sterilising. If there was no alternative to BFing then everyone would manage it somehow, the mothers of today simply can't be bothered to put the effort in or obtain the correct advice. If a mother was faced with the choice of sore nipples or a dead baby I'm pretty sure there would be no contest!


A little too harsh to say "mothers of today simply can't be bothered!"

I guess you are either:

A) a clueless male who can never truly have an idea about breast-feeding a child

B) a rather smug mother whose feeding experience was a positive one or

C) a childless woman who doesn't know how hard and nye on impossible it can sometimes be!

As a mother to a 6 month old baby I know it is hard and with all the will and help in the world, if baby won't feed well they won't feed. I guess you've never sat in hospital crying through stress and exhaustion because nobody can get your baby to feed and you've already been kept in longer than expected because your baby has lost too much weight from not feeding!

Whether a woman breast-feeds her child is not a black and white issue! Sure, it can always be encouraged more but I found the education fair and have encountered enough mothers who have stopped/never could to respect that it's not a laziness issue!!!

Perhaps I'm wrong but I'd imagine baby milk exists because not all mothers are able to feed their child and wet nurses are rather thing on the ground these days!


I agree B&B - The vast majority of parents will make every effort to do what's best for their children. Yes, of course breastfeeding is the ideal but for some mothers it's simply not possible. Even a "clueless male" like me knows this.

Being a parent is a difficult enough business without having know-it-alls on your case.


PLP I obviously refer to Devil's Advocate as a clueless male not all males as I am aware that a large proportion of men are wiser and have some experience of BFeeding


No worries B&B it was meant as a bit of a joke. I don't have much experience of breastfeeding myself as although my manboobs were pretty big I was always alert to stop baby latching on! ;-)


I'm interested to know if there is a correlation between breastfeeding and number of children? and breastfeeding and birth order? Also the correlation between breastfeeding and percentage of new mothers in the workforce? We have quite a high C section rate and breast feeding is difficult after this due to stiches so this can also impact breastfeeding rates. If the baby has to go to England due to prematurity and mother has to fly back to guernsey for a short time (possibly to see other children) whilst prem baby is in NICU then this can impact as well.

Just saying "Guernsey has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world" is meaningless taken out of context. How do we fair against nations which have as low a birthrate as us and similar percentage of working mothers and C sections? All stats from babies taken to England for treatment would have to be excluded. This would give a better indication on how we fair. Perhaps they talk about these variables in the full article as i have only read the short online version.


I had a c-section and found it really difficult to get going with breastfeeding.

There seemed to be only a couple of midwives over here that really know what they are doing. At one point I was told I had mastitis and to start pumping or go to formula, but it was actually my milk coming through it was just late because of the c-section.

I have found my biggest struggle wasn't going back to work full time (I'm lucky that i have a great boss and can pump during work ours - technically its against the human rights act not to allow you to) but was some of the health visitors.

Even now with a 6.5 month old baby I've been told to give cows milk and you've done your bit now just pop him on formula. There is only one health visitor that seems to be pro breast feeding that I have met so far (North parishes)

Even at the weekly talks you are invited to the one about feeding was directed at bottle fed and not breast feeding.

There seems to be a lack of communication of objectives between the health visitors and the Director of Public Health.


Mums cant breast feed when they have dumped the baby with child minders. Children see less of their mums than enyone else.


Aren't you lucky that your partner never did/would have to return to work to help pay your bills! We'd all love to be in that position instead of "dumping" our children!

Funny though. Our baby sees more of myself and her father than anybody else yet we have to "dump" her with a childminder as I go to work.

Working Mum

I have three children and breastfed each of them as I knew it is what I wanted to do and never really considered anything else. My first two were breastfed for 12 months and the third for eighteen months. I think your attitude to bf also depends on your own family, I was bf as were all cousins etc so it just seems natural.

I went back to work after three months after each child and expressed at work, at around 10.30 to give the milk to the childminder at lunchtime, when I would feed my baby, then go off to work, express again at around 3.00/3.30, pick up baby at 5.30 and keep 3.30 milk in fridge to give to childminder in the morning. No, my children did not sleep through waking on average three times a night, sometimes more, sometimes less. Yes it was tiring sometimes, but if I did it all again I would not change a thing. Going back to work is not a reason to give up breastfeeding at all, you just have to be more determined.

It is however for each mother to decide, I would only say that people should stop being so concerned about what others think and put their children first. At the end of the day, the function of breasts is actually to feed babies!