“Oh, you’re still breastfeeding,” was the comment made by the Health Visitor when I took Penny to our first weigh-in clinic at 10 weeks old (I know, bad mummy, I should have taken her more often!) So unfortunately it didn’t come as much of a surprise to discover that the UK have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months of babies life, and state that breast milk should for part of your child’s diet until aged 2. Most babies self wean around this age naturally.
According to Lancet’s latest breastfeeding series launched Jan 2016, Statistics show that only 0.5% of women in the UK make it to 2 years and only 1% make it to 6 months without supplementing with formula or weaning early. See the full list of countries in Table 4.2 in the Annex to the papers here.
We start off pretty well, with 81% of women breast feeding after birth but these rates decrease rapidly, six weeks was 24% in England and 22% in Scotland, compared to 17% in Wales and 13% in Northern Ireland.
At three months, the number of mothers breastfeeding exclusively was 17%. At four months, it was 12%. These rapidly declining figures suggest that women have the best intentions to breastfeed but without local community support and education, it’s hard for them to continue their journey past the sore, cracked nipples, (you’ll need some lansinoh) social stigma and ignore the pressures to enforce a sleep routine. Breastfeeding babies need feeding regularly and in the first few weeks will be unlikely to go more than 2 hours without being fed not just out of hunger, but to encourage your body to produce exactly the milks supply they need. Around 6-8 weeks your milk supply settles as does your baby (for a while).
Find out more about the UK’s low breastfeeding rates in my article here.