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More mums are breastfeeding their infants for longer, new figures show

November 20, 2012: But no change in percentage breastfeeding exclusively for six months.

Mums are breastfeeding their babies for longer, with one in three still breastfeeding in some capacity at six months, new figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show today.

The Infant Feeding Survey 2010 provides estimates on the incidence, prevalence and duration of breastfeeding among mothers in the first eight to ten months after their baby is born. Covering the UK, information is also available for each nation. The report shows that 81 per cent of mothers in the UK in 2010 initially breastfed at birth, rising from 76 per cent in 2005.

By the time babies were six months old, 34 per cent were still breastfeeding in some capacity, compared to 25 per cent in 2005. It also shows that 69 per cent of mothers exclusively5 breastfed at birth, a rise from 65 per cent of mothers in 2005.

However, the number of mothers following government guidelines on exclusive breastfeeding remained unchanged between 2005 and 2010 - with one in every hundred breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of their baby's life.

The report also shows mothers were most likely to initiate breastfeeding if they were:

  • aged 30 or over (87 per cent)
  • from a minority ethnic group (for example for Chinese or other ethnic group - 97 per cent, Black ethnic group - 96 per cent and Asian ethnic group - 95 per cent)
  • among those who left education aged over 18 (91 per cent)
  • living in affluent areas6 (89 per cent).

According to the report, many mothers who stop breastfeeding would have liked to have carried on for longer. The three most common reasons given by mothers for stopping breastfeeding within the first week were:

  • baby would not suck/rejected the breast (33 per cent)
  • mother experiencing painful breasts (22 per cent)
  • mother felt the milk supply was insufficient (17 per cent).

HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan said:

"Today's report gives a detailed account of the incidence and prevalence of breastfeeding across the UK and reveals that breastfeeding practices can vary according to a mother's ethnicity, education and affluence.

"Not only are more mothers initially breastfeeding at the time of their baby's birth, more of them are continuing to breastfeed for longer, which has known benefits to a child's long term health."

Read the full Infant Feeding Survey 2010 report


Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) is England's authoritative, independent source of health and social care information. It works with a wide range of health and social care providers nationwide to provide the facts and figures that help the NHS and social services run effectively. Its role is to collect data, analyse it and convert it into useful information which helps providers improve their services and supports academics, researchers, regulators and policymakers in their work. The HSCIC also produces a wide range of statistical publications each year across a number of areas including: primary care, health and lifestyles, screening, hospital care, population and geography, social care and workforce and pay statistics.
  2. The 2010 Infant Feeding Survey is the eighth national survey of infant feeding practices to be carried out. Surveys have been conducted every five years since 1975. It has covered the UK as a whole since 1990. The latest survey is being carried out by IFF Research, having been commissioned by the HSCIC on behalf of all four UK health departments. The main aim of the survey is to provide national estimates on the incidence, prevalence and duration of breastfeeding and other feeding practices adopted by mothers from the birth of their baby up to around nine months. The survey also collects information on the smoking and drinking behaviour of mothers before, during and after pregnancy. As well as national estimates the survey is also designed to provide individual estimates for the four countries of the UK.
  3. Incidence of breastfeeding: This refers to the percentage of babies who were breastfed initially. In 2010, a clarification that breastfeeding included giving babies expressed breastmilk was included, but otherwise this definition includes all babies who were put to the breast at all, even if it was only once. This definition of incidence of breastfeeding has remained unchanged since the first survey in 1975.
  4. Prevalence of breastfeeding:is defined as the percentage of all babies who are being breastfed (including being given expressed breastmilk) at specific ages, even if they are also receiving infant formula or solid food.
  5. Prevalence of exclusive breastfeedingrefers to the percentage of all babies who have only ever been given breastmilk up to specific ages and who have never been fed formula, solid foods, or any other liquids with the exception of medicine, vitamins, or mineral supplements.
  6. Deprivation - For the purposes of this report, the Indices of Multiple Deprivation has been divided into five quintiles, such that a mother living in the least deprived quintile is in an area in the 20 per cent of the index with the lowest deprivation.
  7. For media enquires please call 0845 257 6990 or email 
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