Statistics reveal England’s low breastfeeding rates

By Hollie Ewers on 25 October 2018 Breastfeeding Infant Feeding England PHE - Public Health England

The proportion of babies breastfed at six to eight weeks is the lowest in England for four years. 

The figures were published in Public Health England’s (PHE) annual experimental statistics on breastfeeding prevalence at six to eight weeks after birth.

The latest annual data covers the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018, and was submitted by local authorities on a voluntary basis.

PHE collected the data through a interim reporting system set up to collect health visiting activity data at a local authority resident level. 

RCM head of education Carmel Lloyd said: ‘These latest annual statistics suggest England could be doing better when it comes breastfeeding. Evidence clearly shows that breastfeeding in line with WHO guidance brings optimum benefits for the health of both mother and baby. 
‘Typically the number of women who start breastfeeding in the UK is at around 80%, but unfortunately after a couple of weeks this number falls dramatically.’

Carmel added that low breastfeeding rates in parts of the UK unfortunately indicate a much bigger social and cultural problem that needs to be tackled. 

‘There are some areas where many generations of women haven't been given the example of breastfeeding or offered the right support to enable them to initiate and sustain breastfeeding if the chose to breastfeed,’ she said.

‘For women who choose to breastfeed it is so important that they feel supported not only by midwives, but by their family, friends and wider society too, particularly when it comes to breastfeeding public.

‘What the RCM wants to see is an investment in specialist midwives and high-quality postnatal support to help women to initiate and sustain breastfeeding if that is the way they have chosen to feed their baby,’ Carmel said.

Access the statistics here.