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UK Has Lowest Rate of Breastfeeding in the World PDF Print Email

A report published in the Lancet shows the UK has the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the world.

 

The international study shows that only 0.5% of women – one in every 200 – is still doing any breastfeeding after a year. 81% of mothers had tried breastfeeding but only 34% were still breastfeeding at 6 months and 0.5% after one year.  In Germany 23% were still breastfeeding, in Brazil it was 56% and Senegal 99%.  In the US 79% had begun breastfeeding but 49% were still continuing after six months and 27% after a year.

 

Breastfeeding is still much more common in poorer countries but it is a common misconception that it is really only important in developing countries.  The UK record is the worst in the world and behind similar countries in Europe.

 

After 12 months the bottom five countries in the world are: -

 

UK 0.5%

Saudi Arabia 2%

Denmark 3%

Greece 6%

France 9%

 

The top five are: -

 

Senegal 99.4%

The Gambia 98.7%

Malawi 98.3%

Guinea-Bissau 97.8%

Ethiopia 97.3%

 

The advice to women in the UK is to use breast milk exclusively for the first six months and then introduce a combination of breast milk and other foods but there is no recommended time to stop breast milk altogether.


The Lancet report said breastfeeding in developed countries reduced the risk of sudden infant deaths by more than a third.  It also lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.  In developing countries, breastfeeding could avoid half the cases of diarrhoea and a third of respiratory infections.


The report was produced by the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, and the report lead, Professor Cesar Victora, said: "There is a widespread misconception that the benefits of breastfeeding only relate to poor countries.  "Nothing could be further from the truth, our work clearly shows that breastfeeding saves lives and money in all countries, rich and poor alike."


The report stated that overall if nearly everyone throughout the world adopted breastfeeding it could save over 800,000 children's lives a year.  There is a controversial suggestion that formula milk has been promoted at the expense of breast milk by some companies and organisations.  A commentary, signed by Save the Children UK and the World Health Organization, was critical of this recently. They said: "The active and aggressive promotion of breast milk substitutes by their manufacturers and distributors continues to be a substantial global barrier to breastfeeding. "Promotion and marketing have turned infant formula, which should be seen as a specialised food that is vitally important for those babies who cannot be breastfed, into a normal food for any infant."

 

Sarah Redshaw, from the BabyCentre website, said: "It is crucial to bear in mind the various barriers and challenges faced by mums when it comes to breastfeeding.  "Generally mums are aware that breastfeeding is best for their baby but often don't get the right support if they encounter problems in the early weeks - which many, many do. As a result, significant numbers give up on breastfeeding."