WOMEN who give birth in a midwife-only unit are 30% more likely to breastfeed than those in traditional wards, new figures have revealed.
Midwife-led birth centres have been built across the country with experts claiming the more relaxed and less “medicalised” setting has huge gains for mother and baby.
Figures show that in 2014/15, 52.4% of women leaving hospitals which only have a traditional maternity ward, led by consultants, were either exclusively breastfeeding or mixed feeding.
By contrast, the rate for hospitals with only a midwife-led units was 68.7%.
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, who uncovered the NHS figures, said: “There are a range of benefits of a natural, midwife-led birth, not least that new mums are more likely to breastfeed straight away.
“All the experts agree women should feel empowered to make decisions on the type and place of birth they want, provided it is safe to do so.
“However, the right of mums-to-be to make their own choices is under threat from pressure on NHS budgets.
“NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde is considering plans to scrap deliveries at the midwife-led units in the Vale of Leven and Inverclyde as part of cuts to save £69 million.
“I hope the SNP’s national review of maternity services recognises the importance of maintaining and promoting local midwife-led units, in urban and rural settings.”
The Scottish Government review of maternity services is due to be published in the coming weeks and is expected to place a big emphasis on the role of midwife-led units for low-risk pregnancies.
The midwife-led units tend to be smaller than traditional wards, with a mixture of birthing beds and pools and all of the medical equipment kept in cupboards so the room is more like a hotel.
Felicity Lambert, manager of the National Breastfeeding Helpline, said: “We know that good-quality, positive support for breastfeeding at birth and afterwards is what makes a real difference to breastfeeding initiation and duration.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensure that all new mothers, regardless of where they give birth, have the right support so they can breastfeed successfully if they choose to do so.
“Last year we announced a review of maternity and neonatal services to examine choice, quality and safety of these services. One of the things it will consider is the role that midwife-led units will play in future service provision.”
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