Memorandum by the Department of Health
Project Organisational Arrangements (Continued)
1. The statistics in this paper presents
information from Infant Feeding Surveys conducted in 1990, 1995
(conducted by office for National Statistics) and 2000 (conducted
by BMRB Social Research). Surveys have been conducted every five
years since 1975.
2. Between 1995 and 2000 all countries in
the UK showed a statistically significant increase in the incidence
of breastfeeding, as had been the case also between 1990 and 1995.
The rate for England and Wales increased from 64 per cent in 1990
to 68 per cent in 1995 to 70 per cent in 2000. In Scotland, the
increases were from 50 per cent to 55 per cent to 63 per cent.
In Northern Ireland, the incidence was 36 per cent in 1990, 45
per cent in 1995 and in 2000 rose to 54 per cent.
3. The duration of breastfeeding refers
to the length of time that mothers who breastfeed initially continue
to do so even if they were also giving their baby other foods.
There continues to be a strong relationship between duration of
breastfeeding and social class with a regular pattern of shorter
duration of breastfeeding with each consecutively lower social
class group. In 1990, 78 per cent of mothers from social class
I who breastfed initially were still doing so at 6 weeks compared
with 51 per cent of mothers in social class V. In 1995, 82 per
cent of mothers from social class I who breastfed initially were
still doing so at 6 weeks compared with 46 per cent of mothers
in social class V. Data on the duration of breastfeeding for 2000
infant feeding survey is not yet available.
4. Although the changes in breastfeeding
rates between 1995 and 2000 are statistically significant in each
country, it is important to place the results in the context of
changes in the composition of the sample over this period. As
the incidence of breastfeeding is associated with mothers' socio-demographic
characteristics, so changes in the composition of the sample with
respect to these characteristics would be expected to lead to
changes in national characteristics even if other factors remained
constant. This is discussed below after looking at the associations
found in 2000 between breastfeeding and various characteristics
Age mother finished full-time education
5. As in previous years, mothers who left
full-time education at age 16 years were least likely to breastfeed,
while those who had continued in education beyond 18 years were
most likely to do so. The association between breastfeeding and
the mother's educational level was evident in all countries. The
pattern across different educational levels in Northern Ireland
was typical of the rest of the UK, with rates of 38 per cent for
mothers who had left school at 16 and 71 per cent for mothers
who remained in education beyond the age of 18.
Social class of the mother's husband or partner
6. The social class gradient in breastfeeding,
with the highest rates among mothers in the non-manual groups
continued to be apparent in 2000. A social class could not be
assigned to mothers who were neither married nor living with a
partner, nor where incomplete information was given about the
partner's occupation. Data for these two groups are combined in
the results presented here.
7. In all countries, mothers in Social Class
I and II had the highest breastfeeding rates. However, the greatest
changes since 1995 were in other social groups, with a significant
increase in the incidence of breastfeeding in England and Wales
in social class V (from 50 per cent in 1995 to 62 per cent in
2000). In Scotland and Northern Ireland, this was the only social
group not showing a rise in incidence, all other occupational
groups showing an increase.
Changes in breastfeeding incidence
8. As already shown, two characteristics
of the motherseducational level and social classare
strongly associated with the incidence of breastfeeding. It is
therefore important to consider the composition of the sample
over the years of the survey, to ensure that any increase in incidence
cannot be attributed solely to changes in the sample, caused for
example by mothers having babies in later life and the increase
in terminal education age.
9. The technique of standardisation has
been used to separate out the contribution of compositional change
from what might be termed `real' changes over the period since
1990. The rates are standardised for age and educational level.
10. In England and Wales, survey estimates
of the incidence of breastfeeding were 64 per cent in 1990, 68
per cent in 1995 and 70 per cent in 2000. The standardised rates,
assuming that the age and educational level distributions of the
sample had remained the same as in 1985 were 62 per cent in all
11. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, however,
even after standardising for changes in the composition of the
sample, incidence of breastfeeding has increased. In Scotland
the rates have increased from 48 per cent in 1995 to 54 per cent
in 2000 and in Northern Ireland the increase in incidence is from
41 per cent in 1995 (which was up from 36 per cent in 1990) to
47 per cent in 2000.