Danish children breast-fed too little

Just 17 percent of children were breast-fed the recommended six months in 2012

Less than every fifth child in Denmark is breast-fed the six months that the health authorities, Sundhedsstyrelsen, recommend, according to a new report.

Statistics from the children's database Børnedatabasen – a registry jointly compiled by Sundhedsstyrelsen, the state serum institute, Statens Serum Institut and the local government organisation, KL – showed that just 17 percent of children were breast-fed at least six months in 2012.

Kim F Michaelsen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen and adviser to Sundhedsstyrelsen concerning children's nutrition, said that longer breast feeding periods provided clear benefits.

“There are convincing studies that show that breast feeding provides a slightly better cognitive function and decreases the risk of infections – like diarrhoea, middle ear infection and respiratory illnesses – and immune-system illness like type 2 diabetes and some allergy illnesses,” Michaelsen told KL’s magazine, Momentum. “The risk of breast cancer is also slightly reduced among women who have breast-fed over a longer period.”

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Mothers need support
In particular, mothers stop breast feeding due to pain associated with breast feeding and also because many have trouble properly handling the process, according to Hanne Kronborg, a professor at the Institute of Public Health at Aarhus University.

”Even is you are well prepared, it can come as a surprise just how intense and how much time is takes to take care of and breast-feed a little baby,” Kronborg told Momentum. “Meanwhile, mothers can experience pain through cracked nipples, so it is easy to become insecure during this early phase.”

The figures from Børnedatabasen showed that 30 percent of the children are breast-fed for just two weeks at the most, and Kronborg suggested that mothers should be offered more help and advice from the health authorities.

We know that skin-to-skin contact, suitable suckling techniques and good breast-feeding positions are things that women should be helped and supported with,” Kronborg said. “So it’s essential that midwifes, hospital staff and nurses work together to ensure that the family are not left alone in the dark around the time of birth and shortly thereafter.”

As hospitals have begun to discharge new mothers earlier and earlier in recent years, the councils have hastened the obligatory home visits so nearly all new mothers are visited by a nurse within the first week of the birth.