BREASTFEEDING IN THE UK
Figure from Public Health England, click on the picture for references
In a recent national survey in Scotland, 75% of those giving birth started to breastfeed, 69% were giving any breastmilk on leaving the hospital/birthing unit, 55% were breastfeeding at 6 weeks and 43% at 6 months of age. Rates of exclusive breastfeeding are much lower. 25% of babies had never received infant formula at around 2-3 months of age and 16% had never received any infant formula at around 8-12 months of age.
Certain factors are associated with lower initiation and continuation rates - mothers who are more economically deprived are most at risk - for example those in the most deprived quintile had an adjusted odds ratio of 0.68 for breastfeeding initiation. Younger people and smokers also show reduced breastfeeding rates. In general, people from black and minority ethnic groups have higher initiation and continuation rates for breastfeeding, but this may hide significant differences among specific ethnic groups with different historical and cultural attitudes to breastfeeding.
There are many reasons for the poor state of breastfeeding in the UK, compared to other high income countries. The UK World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative Report in 2016 identified insufficient training for health professionals as one of seven key gaps.
Figure from WBTi UK, click on the picture to go to the site
What do families say?
The 2017 Scottish Infant Feeding Survey reported that:
Two thirds of those who had initiated breastfeeding reported experiencing some problems
Half had difficulty with attachment to the breast in the early days
65% were concerned about their milk supply in the first few weeks
A quarter said that they had been made to feel uncomfortable when breastfeeding their baby
Three quarters of those who stopped breastfeeding wanted to continue
Of those who stopped breastfeeding, 77% had problems with attachment to the breast and 86% were concerned about their milk supply
It is also important to note the mental health impact of this steep drop off in breastfeeding rates. Those who plan to breastfeed and don't succeed have a 50% higher rate of postnatal depression than those who plan to breastfeed and do so. This is a useful website for families and health professionals to work through their feelings about feeding.