Difficulties with infant feeding

Difficulties with infant feeding

Infant feeding issues can impact mental health; and postnatal mental health conditions can compound infant feeding (118).

  • The impact on mental health may be moderated by infant feeding intentions: one study found that mothers who planned to breastfeed their babies, but did not go on to do so, were at the highest risk of postnatal depression (119).
  • Women report that pressure to breastfeed can feel ‘overwhelming’ and that there is judgement and stigma around not being able to, or not wanting to, breastfeed. Many women report feelings of failure and blame if they are unable to breastfeed (108).
  • A survey of local people carried out by Rosie Maternity and Neonatal Voices in 2021 highlighted the importance of infant feeding support to perinatal mental health (120).
  • The UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe (121). Nationally, the prevalence of breastfeeding is particularly low among more deprived areas and young mothers, which widens pre-existing health inequalities (121).

Local population

Rates of breastfeeding are highest in the South of Cambridgeshire and lowest in Peterborough, at both 10 – 14 days and 6 – 8 weeks post-birth (118).

Figure 25: Breastfeeding rates across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in 2021/22, according to local maternity and health visiting providers. Image source: Infant Feeding Strategy 2022 – 2027


  • A survey of local service users carried out by Rosie Maternity and Neonatal Voices in 2021 highlighted the importance of infant feeding support to perinatal mental health (118).
    • 14% of respondents said that they would like to see perinatal-related anxieties such as infant feeding addressed.
    • Infant feeding was the most important issue impacting people’s mental health.
    • Respondents reported that the lack of support surrounding infant feeding exacerbated their difficulties with their mood. Some mentioned there being ‘very little consistent support,’ one woman specifically mentioned being ‘confused and upset by contradictory advice’ owing to anxiety and low mood.
  • The National Childbirth Trust is commissioned to deliver breastfeeding support locally in Peterborough, Huntingdonshire and Fenland to address low breastfeeding rates in these areas. Staff and peer-supporters with lived experience offer 1:1 and group support. Conversations with local staff highlighted that:
    • There is a lack of local breastfeeding support groups in the North of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough so when women need breastfeeding support, especially in the early days after birth, they struggle to find timely support.
    • Higher breastfeeding rates in South Cambridgeshire may be contributed to a wider choice of local breastfeeding support groups available to breastfeeding mothers.
    •  Women report feeling that they don’t receive enough and/or good quality breastfeeding support at hospital and therefore they are not confident to breastfeed their child once at home.

Additional resources


108. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Maternal Mental Health: Women’s Voices [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Mar 2]. Available from: https://www.rcog.org.uk/media/3ijbpfvi/maternal-mental-health-womens-voices.pdf
118. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care System. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Infant Feeding Strategy 2022-27. 2022.
119. Borra C, Iacovou M, Sevilla A. New Evidence on Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression: The Importance of Understanding Women’s Intentions. Matern Child Health J. 2015;19(4).
120. Rosie Maternity and Neonatal Voices. Report on Perinatal Mental Health survey for Rosie Maternity and Neonatal Voices service users. 2021.
121. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. Breastfeeding in the UK-position statement [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 6]. Available from: https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/sites/default/files/generated-pdf/document/Breastfeeding-in-the-UK—position-statement.pdf