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National Statistics
Publication, Part of

Infant Feeding Survey - 2005, Main Report

Official statistics, National statistics, Survey
Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
United Kingdom
Geographical Granularity:
Date Range:
Snapshot on 14 May 2007


The main aim of the survey was to provide estimates on the incidence, prevalence, and duration of breastfeeding and other feeding practices adopted by mothers in the first eight to ten months after their baby was born. The 2005 survey is the first to provide separate estimates for all four countries in the United Kingdom, as well as for the UK as a whole and to provide estimates of exclusive breastfeeding (where the baby is given only breast milk, no other liquids or solids).

The survey is based on a representative sample of mothers who were selected from all births registered during August and September 2005 in the United Kingdom. Three stages of data collection were conducted with Stage 1 being carried out when babies were around four to ten weeks old, Stage 2 when they were around four to six months old, and Stage 3 when they were around eight to ten months old. A total of 9,416 mothers completed and returned all three questionnaires.

The survey report covers:

  • incidence, prevalence and duration of breastfeeding
  • breastfeeding intentions and awareness of health benefits
  • the use of milk, other than breast milk, and additional drinks
  • problems encountered with breastfeeding
  • babies' health
  • introduction of solids foods
  • feeding outside the home
  • smoking and drinking during pregnancy.

Key Facts

  • Initial breastfeeding rates in 2005 were 78 per cent in England, 70 per cent in Scotland, 67 per cent in Wales, and 63 per cent in Northern Ireland. In England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland the incidence of breastfeeding increased between 2000 and 2005.
  • The highest incidences of breastfeeding were found among mothers from managerial and professional occupations, those with the highest educational levels, those aged 30 or over, and first time mothers.
  • In 2005, 48 per cent of all mothers in the United Kingdom were breastfeeding at six weeks, while 25 per cent were still breastfeeding at six months. Between 2000 and 2005 there was an increase in the prevalence of breastfeeding at all ages up to nine months in both England and Wales and Northern Ireland. The pattern of fall out was broadly similar across all countries.
  • In 2005, 45 per cent of all mothers in the United Kingdom were breastfeeding exclusively at one week, while 21 per cent were feeding exclusively at six weeks. At four months the figure was 7 per cent while at six months the proportion of mothers who were breastfeeding exclusively was negligible (<1 per cent).
  • At six weeks the rate of exclusive breastfeeding was 22 per cent in England compared with 13 per cent in Northern Ireland, while at four months rates of exclusive breastfeeding were twice as high in England (8 per cent) compared with both Northern Ireland and Wales (4 per cent). By six months rates were negligible in all countries.
  • Over eight in ten mothers (84 per cent) said they were aware of the health benefits of breastfeeding.
  • Three-quarters of all mothers had given their baby milk other than breast milk by the age of six weeks, this proportion rising to 92 per cent by six months.
  • Just under half of all mothers who had prepared powdered infant formula in the last seven days had not followed the key recommendations for preparing formula: either by not always using boiled water that had cooled for less than 30 minutes or not always adding the water to the bottle before the powder.
  • There has been a marked trend towards mothers introducing solid foods later in 2005 compared with 2000. For example, in 2000 85 per cent of mothers had introduced solid foods by four months, but by 2005 this figure had fallen to 51 per cent. This shift is evident in all countries and continues a longer-term trend in this direction.
  • Solid foods tended to be introduced at a younger age among mothers in Wales and Scotland, those in lower social classes, and those with lower educational levels.
  • A third of all mothers were giving drinks in addition to breast or formula milk by four weeks. This had risen to two thirds by four months.
  • Half (51 per cent) of mothers breastfeeding initially had breastfed in public, this proportion increasing from four per cent of mothers breastfeeding for less than two weeks to nearly all (86 per cent) breastfeeding for at least six months.
  • One in six of all mothers (17 per cent) reported that they had continued to smoke throughout their pregnancy. The proportion of all mothers in England who reported smoking throughout pregnancy fell from 19 per cent in 2000 to 17 per cent in 2005.


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Last edited: 7 February 2019 4:04 pm