How many women breastfeed?

Many women start breastfeeding their babies, but not all keep up the habit for the recommended duration of one year. Breastfeeding has many long-term benefits for the baby and mother, including healthier weight loss for the mom.

New mothers are more likely to initiate breastfeeding if they have higher levels of education and income, the data shows. This pattern is consistent across different regions of England.

How many babies are breastfed?

While breastfeeding has clear health benefits for babies, it’s also been linked to social benefits such as a higher IQ and ‘better behaviour’. However, breastfeeding rates vary by age and socio-economic status, with women who are older or more likely to be working outside the home more able to breastfeed. In the UK, breastfeeding is most common among mothers aged 30 or over, those from minority ethnic groups, those who leave education aged over 18, and those in managerial and professional occupations. It is also most common in the least deprived areas.

A quarter of women who have had a baby say they wouldn’t have been able to breastfeed for as long as they did if it hadn’t been for the support they received. But support can be provided in many different ways. One example is maternity leave which can give parents the time and space they need to nurse their baby, as well as help with feeding choices.

Currently, in England a little over 49% of infants are born breastfeeding. But fewer than 20% are exclusively breastfed by three months, and only 1% are exclusively breastfed until six months. A recent report found that babies who are breastfed for at least the first year of life are less likely to be hospitalised with diarrhoea or chest infections.

How long do babies breastfeed?

Breastfeeding is the best way for babies to get the nutrients they need. It also helps protect them against many diseases in childhood and has benefits for mothers too, such as a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

However, breastfeeding can be challenging for new mothers and some stop early. CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that all babies are breastfed for the first six months, or longer if mother and baby want to.

Newborns should be put to their mothers’ breasts within an hour of birth for skin-to-skin contact and initiation of breastfeeding. This is known as the golden hour. Newborns who are fed anything other than breast milk during this time may be at greater risk of poor health outcomes in later life, including sudden infant death syndrome, oedema and malnutrition.

In the US, about three out of four babies start out breastfeeding, but rates decline after six months and only 13% are exclusively breastfed at that point. These rates are lower among black women than white mothers, despite the fact that more of them start out breastfeeding.

Until 2022, data on the breastfeeding status of newborns is collected by NHS England via the Maternity Services Data Set (MSDS) and reported nationally. Due to data quality issues in 2021/22, regional breakdowns are only available for three areas.

Why do babies stop breastfeeding?

Many mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they want to, and there are a number of reasons for this. Some women stop breastfeeding because they are not receiving enough milk to feed their infants – this may be because their babies have difficulty eating solid food or they may suffer from a condition such as colic or reflux that affects how much breastmilk is produced.

Others decide to stop because they have other priorities, such as returning to work. This is not necessarily a problem, as it is possible to keep breastfeeding while you are at work – if you want to you can use a pump to express milk to give to your baby at work. This is also an option if you are travelling and cannot always be home to feed your baby.

Other women stop breastfeeding because they feel their babies are ready to start weaning – this usually happens around the age of nine months. Once your baby starts taking 3 or more solid feeds a day, they will begin to get all of the nutrition they need from these foods and will no longer need to rely on your breastmilk. Some mums choose to continue breastfeeding as a way of keeping their bond with their child even after they have started weaning. This is a very personal decision and can be helped by talking to your child’s health professionals.

How do I breastfeed my baby?

Breastfeeding provides your baby with all the nutrients they need to thrive, as well as creating a close bond. It also protects babies from infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and reduces the risk of certain cancers for both mother and child. It is recommended that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months, although many women continue to nurse even after this period, and some go on to feed their children exclusively with breast milk until they are two years old or more.

You may be able to start breastfeeding right after birth, especially if you have skin-to-skin contact with your baby in the prone position and you are able to keep them warm. Your newborn can get all the nutrition they need from your colostrum, which is rich in antibodies that help them build their immune systems.

When you begin feeding your baby, try to cradle them in the crook of your arm, with their face to your chest. This is called the ‘cradle hold’, and it helps prevent your nipples from getting sore during a feed. If you are nursing in a chair, consider using pillows to support your shoulders and back.

If your nipple is sore during a feed, it could be because your baby’s latch is too shallow. Try slipping your finger gently in the corner of their mouth to release suction, and then reposition and re-latch them onto the breast.


It’s important to note that breastfeeding is recommended by health organizations worldwide, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, as it provides numerous health benefits to both infants and mothers. However, the specific statistics regarding the number of women who breastfeed at any given time would require up-to-date data and can vary over time and across different populations.To obtain the most current and accurate information on breastfeeding rates, it would be best to consult the latest reports and studies published by organizations like the WHO, UNICEF, and national health agencies, as they regularly collect and analyze data related to breastfeeding practices.

What percentage of women worldwide breastfeed their babies?

Breastfeeding rates vary widely by country and region. While the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, the actual percentage of women who follow this recommendation can range from very low in some places to relatively high in others.

Are there any countries where breastfeeding rates are particularly high?

Yes, some countries have notably high breastfeeding rates. These rates can be influenced by cultural norms, government policies, and healthcare practices. In some Scandinavian countries, for example, a high percentage of mothers initiate breastfeeding and continue for an extended duration.

Why do some women choose not to breastfeed?

There are various reasons why some women may choose not to breastfeed or may discontinue breastfeeding. These reasons can include medical conditions that make breastfeeding difficult, personal preferences, social or workplace pressures, and lack of access to adequate support and information.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding for both infants and mothers?

Breastfeeding offers numerous health benefits. For infants, it provides essential nutrients and antibodies, which can help protect against infections and diseases. Breastfeeding is also associated with a reduced risk of certain health conditions in mothers, such as breast and ovarian cancer.

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