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

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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 exclusively 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 areas (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 couple of weeks 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.”

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