Breastfeeding rates in the UK

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The figures from the 2010 Infant Feeding Survey were published in November 2012. The 2010 figures show some significant improvements from the 2005 survey. Key findings were:

  • The proportion of babies breastfed at birth in the UK rose by 5%, from 76% to 81%.
  • The initial breastfeeding rate in 2010 was highest in England at 83% (compared with 74% in Scotland, 71% in Wales, and 64% in Northern Ireland). Exclusive breastfeeding at six weeks was 24% in England and 22% in Scotland, compared to 17% in Wales and 13% in Northern Ireland.
  • Across the UK, at three months, the number of mothers breastfeeding exclusively was 17% (up from 13% in 2005) and at four months, it was 12% (up from 7% in 2005). However, exclusive breastfeeding at six months remains at around 1%.
  • Rates of ‘any breastfeeding’ showed a rise. At six weeks, the number of women breastfeeding at all was 48% in 2005 and 55% in 2010, while at six months they were 25% in 2005 and 34% in 2010.
  • The survey also found that mothers are introducing solids later, with a significant fall in the number introducing solids by four months from 51% in 2005 to 30% in 2010.
  • Breastfeeding was most common among mothers who were: aged 30 or over, from minority ethnic groups, left education aged over 18, in managerial and professional occupations and living in the least deprived areas.

A major meta-analysis has found the Baby Friendly Initiative to be the most effective programme for improving breastfeeding rates.

In 2012, UNICEF published Preventing disease and saving resources: The potential contribution of increasing breastfeeding rates in the UK which looked at how raising breastfeeding rates could save the NHS money through improving health outcomes.

Find out more about Baby Friendly statistics for the UK.