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Breastfeeding in the uk, latest stats and rates from experts

September 22, 2023

The United Kingdom has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Get the latest stats and rates from breastfeeding experts.

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 rates in the world. Just take that in for a moment.

Important Update: October 2023.

October saw the formal announcement from the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities of a new 2023 National Infant Feeding Survey which we at Anya look forward to seeing the results from, as the last national infant feeding survey in England was done in 2010. You can read more about this in the government website.

Office of Health Improvement Disparities who made the announcement on 5th October, have commissioned IPSOS to conduct the survey, where they will see mothers of babies at 9 to 12 weeks old being initially contacted, to volunteer to take part in the survey which looks into:

  • how mothers feed their babies
  • where they get information and advice on feeding their babies
  • some aspects of pregnancy and lifestyle

Those who complete the first questionnaire and agree to further contact will be sent further questionnaires when their baby is around 4 to 6 months old and around 8 to 10 months old.

Survey results will be published on the government website once ready. See below to read more about what we already know about breastfeeding in the UK. 

The UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the entire world.

Low breastfeeding rates in the UK is down to the lack of awareness and lack of consistent support. We know that parents are doing their very best and making a monumental effort to give their baby the best start in life. While we used to raise babies with the entire village, how can we expect parents to now 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.

We know that parents in the UK are trying hard to breastfeed.

Some statistics and facts about breastfeeding in the UK:

  • The 2010 Infant Feeding Survey found that although 81% of parents 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 parents 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.
  • According to the UK-wide Better Breastfeeding Campaign, at least 44% of local authority areas in England are affected by cuts to breastfeeding services.

We can help change this.

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, parents 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!

Learn more about how Anya supports communities to improve breastfeeding outcomes in our article below:

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