DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
News Release issued by COI News Distribution Service on
New growth charts
launched for National Breastfeeding Awareness Week
All newborn babies and children up to four years old will have
their growth measurements plotted on new charts from this week.
The launch of the charts, which have been developed for the
Department of Health by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child
Health, based on the World Health Organisation's work,
coincides with National Breastfeeding Awareness Week (10 - 16 May)
and replaces current measures which are based predominately on
babies fed with formula milk.
Research shows that breast-fed babies tend to gain weight at a
healthier pace and are less likely to become obese in later life.
The new charts will play an important role in establishing
breastfeeding as the norm and will be included in the Personal
Child Health Records, which parents of every newborn are given.
They will help parents and healthcare professionals identify
children at early risk of obesity and provide important
reassurance for parents of breast-fed babies, who are likely to
gain weight more slowly.
The new charts include parent-friendly instructions and a chart
specifically for premature babies. As babies can lose and gain
weight at different rates during birth and two weeks, it is
recommended that they are not measured during this time. The
charts also help make more reliable predictions of a child's
Dr Sheila Shribman, National Clinical Director for Children,
Young People and Maternity at the Department of Health said,
"Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for infants. It
gives health benefits for both the baby and the mother - even
after they are no longer breastfeeding. It protects against
stomach bugs and chest infections, provides perfect nutrition for
the first six months, and reduces the likelihood of becoming obese
in later childhood.
"The new UK-WHO growth charts will not only provide more
accurate measurements for infant growth of breastfed babies, but
will also help healthcare professionals and parents to identify
early signs of overweight or obesity and provide support."
Professor Terence Stephenson, President of Royal College of
Paediatrics and Child Health said:
"The new charts have given us the opportunity to give growth
charts a complete facelift and for the first time, position
breastfeeding as 'the norm'. We hope they will be the
stimulus for healthcare professionals to explain to women best
practice for healthy growth and in turn, encourage more women to
breastfeed their child.n"
Notes to Editors
For media enquiries only please contact the Department of Health
newsdesk on 020 7210 5221
The charts and supporting educational materials can be viewed on
The new growth charts covering newborns to 4 year olds replace
the current UK90 charts and are included in the newly updated
Personal Child Health Record, which is given to all new parents.
Other features of the revised Personal Child Health Record include
information on the Healthy Child Programme and information on new
one year and two to two and a half year reviews, as well as on
breast-feeding support services .
The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for
the first six months (26 weeks) of an infant's life, as
breast milk provides all the nutrients a baby needs at this time.
Breastfeeding (and/or breastmilk substitutes, if used) should
continue beyond the first six months along with appropriate types
and amounts of solid foods
Research indicates breastmilk helps protect babies from infection
and diseases such as gastro-intestinal infections, ear infections,
urine infections, eczema and obesity in later childhood. Healthy
Weight, Healthy Lives: A Cross-Government Strategy for England
aims to reverse the rise in childhood obesity, and breastfeeding
plays an integral role in this. Breastfeeding also provides health
benefits for mothers. It can help them to return to pre-pregnancy
weight and can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer
later in life.
In England, 78% of mothers initiate breastfeeding and only 22%
are still breastfeeding at 6 months. Initiation rates for many
other European countries are much higher: Norway: 99%; Denmark:
98%; Sweden: 97.7%; Switzerland: 94%; Austria: 93%; Italy: 91%;
Spain: 84.2%, whilst France, Ireland and Germany have lower rates
than England Germany: 77.8%; France: 69%; Ireland: 53%.
In addition to the support offered by healthcare professionals,
the Department of Health provides the National Breastfeeding
Helpline 0300 100 0212, which mums can call and speak to a trained
breastfeeding volunteer in their local area. The DH also provides
a free DVD 'From bump to breastfeeding - following real
mothers' stories to find out how', available to all
pregnant women and distributed by midwives and health visitors.
For more information visit http://www.breastfeeding.nhs.uk
The growth charts form part of the Department of Health's
long term commitment to increasing breastfeeding rates in England.
Last year the Department of Health announced £4 million extra
funding to help support hospitals in disadvantaged areas to
achieve Unicef Baby-Friendly Status, a set of best practice
standards for maternity units and community services on improving
practice to promote, protect and support breastfeeding
For more information on the Royal College of Paediatrics and
Child Health (RCPCH) visit http://www.rcpch.ac.uk