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Br J Gen Pract. 2006 May 1; 56(526): 379.
PMCID: PMC1837850

Low breastfeeding rates and milk insufficiency

Muirhead et al have conducted a study which has shown that peer support does not increase breastfeeding rates.1

The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life.2 In Muirhead's study, the median duration of breastfeeding (in primigravidae) was only 7 days. This is so far short of Department of Health recommendations that we suggest thought should be given to pursuing an alternative approach.

The reason most frequently given by mothers for discontinuation of breastfeeding is milk insufficiency.3 It is clear therefore that advice to mothers should ensure the prevention (and if necessary treatment) of milk insufficiency.

Weight gain is likely to be the easiest practical way to assess milk sufficiency; weighing babies has been shown not to reduce breastfeeding rates (in fact, it may improve them).4

We suggest that interventions to increase breastfeeding rates should be targeted at the prevention (and if necessary treatment) of milk insufficiency, and milk production should be confirmed by regular weighing.


1. Muirhead PE, Butcher G, Rankin J, Munley A. The effect of a programme of organised and supervised peer support on the initiation and duration of breastfeeding. Br J Gen Pract. 2006;56:191–197. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
3. Hamlin B, Brooker S, Oleinikova K, Wands S. Infant feeding. London: The Stationery Office; 2000.
4. McKie A, Young D, MacDonald P D. Does monitoring newborn weight discourage breast feeding? Arch Dis Child. 2006;91:4–46.

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners