The Department of Health (DoH)in the UK and the World Health Organization (WHO) both currently recommend that mothers should breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their child’s life. This means that they should only give their bay breast milk, not formula milk or solid foods. Statistics about the numbers of breastfeeding women are collected in the firs instance from mothers in the delivery room or maternity ward when they are asked by midwives what method of feeding they will be using. They are asked again by health visitors and doctors during their baby’s eight week review and then again at six months.
Relevance of statistics
Information about the number of mothers who breastfeed is used to inform health professionals about current trends, offers guidance as to where and how more work is needed to encourage breastfeeding and to identify problems that may be preventing mothers from choosing to feed their babies in this way. Breastfeeding statistics are relevant to both health and socio-economic research and concerns.
Recent statistics for breastfeeding at birth
Although The Guardian newspaper reported that breastfeeding statistics for the UK were down in 2012 to 2013 in comparison to previous years, the Department of Health statistics show that this was only by 0.1%. Their figures show that between 2012 and 2013, 73.9% of women chose to breastfeed their baby at birth. The previous year 74% of women breastfed their newborns and between 2010 and 2011 the figure was 73.7%.
Statistics for mothers who continue to breastfeed
At six to eight weeks of age only 47.2% of babies were still being breastfed and this is the same figure that was recorded the previous year. 26.7% of mother had taken the decision to either discontinue breastfeeding or to do so part time.
Further statistics are collected to demonstrate the different demographic groups who breastfeed and these were summarized in an article in The Guardian newspaper. According to this article 90% of women who were in professional or managerial roles breastfed, while only 71% of those who had never worked chose this method of feeding. 84% of first-time mothers breastfed in comparison to only 78% of mother having their subsequent children. Of women who finished their education at 16 or younger 63% breastfed while statistics for those who continued their education to the age of 18 show that 71% breastfed.
WHO describe the UK as a slowly improving country that has similar rates to countries such as France Italy and Spain. Sweden has a fantastic rate of breastfeeding with 98% of all babies born after 1990 having been breastfed at some point, while the number of children breastfed in the USA is increasing. Many countries in Africa have extremely low rates of breastfeeding babies for up to 4 months. Some of lowest rating countries are Nigeria (2%), Niger (4%) and Senegal (7%).
Over time statistics for breastfeeding vary and are influenced by many social and environmental factors. Statistics are collected to monitor the number of women breastfeeding and to see how improvements can be made to this figure. Current statistics show a slight decline in the number of women choosing to breastfeed with the most likely people being professional women who were educated until they were at least 18 and are having their first child.