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More mums breastfeeding longer

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard
child breastfeeding

20th November 2012 - More mums are breastfeeding their babies for longer according to the latest statistics.

Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that 81% of mothers began breastfeeding when their baby was born, up from 76% in 2005. This includes all babies who were put to the breast at all, even if this was on one occasion only, and also includes giving expressed breast milk.

The Infant Feeding Survey for 2010 shows one in three mothers (34%) who start breastfeeding are still doing some breast feeds at six months.

The report has been welcomed by the Royal College of Midwives, but the RCM says there is still room for improvement.

Breast is best

UK guidelines recommend babies are breastfed exclusively for the first six months, because breast milk gives all the nutrients and immunity support a young baby needs.

83% of mothers were aware of the health benefits of breastfeeding.

However, the number of mothers achieving six months of exclusive breastfeeding hasn't changed since 2005, at around one in a hundred.

Mums most likely to start breastfeeding were:

  • Aged 30 or over
  • From an ethnic minority group
  • Staying longer in full time education
  • Living in affluent areas

Reasons for not breastfeeding

The report found many mums would have liked to have carried on breastfeeding after starting, but experienced problems including:

  • Baby would not suck/rejected the breast (33%)
  • Mum experienced painful breasts (22%)
  • Mum felt her milk supply wasn't sufficient (17%)

Over four in five breastfeeding mothers who experienced problems were offered help or support, either in hospital, birth centre or after going home. Those who did not receive help or support for these problems were more likely to have stopped breastfeeding within the first two weeks.

The NHS doesn't recommend introducing solid food or weaning until after a baby is six months old. However, 75% of mums questioned had introduced solids by the time their baby was five months old.

Returning to work and breastfeeding in public

19% of mums felt that their return to work had affected the way they fed their baby, with over half of them saying it made them stop or cut down breastfeeding.

11% of mothers who had breastfed in public said that they had been stopped or been made to feel uncomfortable and 47% of them had found problems finding somewhere suitable to breastfeed their baby.


In a statement, HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan says: "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."

Commenting on the report in a statement, the Royal College of Midwives' director for midwifery Louise Silverton says: "We warmly welcome the report and its findings that mothers are breastfeeding longer. However, there is still room for improvement in breastfeeding among groups with traditionally lower breastfeeding rates and those who tend to breastfeed for shorter durations."

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