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Breastfeeding in the UK

January 6, 2023

The UK leads the way in so many sectors, but sadly, breastfeeding is not one of them. In fact, here in the UK we have the lowest breastfeeding rate in the world. 

Just take that in for a moment. The lowest in the entire world. It’s down to the lack of awareness and lack of consistent support. We know that mums are doing their very best and putting themselves through hell and back to give their baby the best start in life. When we used to raise babies in villages, how can we expect mothers to do this alone?

This startling statistic is proof that we need our voices and frustrations to be heard in order to make changes. Only 1 in 200 UK women do any breastfeeding after a year, that is a very low 0.5%. In Germany, 23% of women still breastfeed after a year, 27% in the USA and 56% in Brazil. It’s sad to read that 90% of women from the UK stop breastfeeding before they want to. 

But we can change this.

We know that mums in the UK are trying hard to breastfeed. Here are some more facts:

  • The 2010 Infant Feeding Survey found that although 81% of mums in the UK tried to breastfeed their newborns at birth, by the end of the first week over half of those babies had some degree of formula. Across the UK, at 3 months the number of mothers breastfeeding exclusively was 17% and at 4 months, it dropped further to 12%. Exclusive breastfeeding at six months (recommended by the WHO) remained at 1%. 2010 was the last year a UK wide survey took place.
  • Research shows that 90% of mums who stop breastfeeding in the early days do so before they wanted to. In a 2016 survey of 300 mothers, 60% of mums said that they gave up breastfeeding because of the pain and lack of support. This breastfeeding pain is largely caused by incorrect latching and subsequent nipple damage.
  • According to the UK-wide Better Breastfeeding Campaign, at least 44% of local authority areas in England are affected by recent cuts to breastfeeding services.
  • A study revealed that women who plan to breastfeed their babies but are unable to for whatever reason are twice as likely to suffer depression as mothers who decide in advance to use formula.

Time to change

A study in The Lancet estimates that global economic losses from the lower cognition due to not breastfeeding reached a staggering US$302 billion in 2012, equivalent to 0.49% of world gross national income. In high-income countries alone, these losses amounted to US$231.4 billion, equivalent to 0.53% of gross national income.

Increasing the UK’s breastfeeding rates could reportedly save the NHS £50m a year as “excess appointments for babies fed on formula milk, who are more prone to illness, would no longer be needed.”

With cheaper, easier, and more accessible breastfeeding support, mums are more likely to continue breastfeeding which will have a positive impact on their health and mental wellbeing. Babies will be happier and more relaxed too. So let’s help them!

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