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National Statistics
Publication, Part of

Infant Feeding Survey - UK, 2010

Official statistics, National statistics, Survey
Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
United Kingdom
Date Range:
Snapshot on 20 Nov 2012



The Infant Feeding Survey has been discontinued.

Note 1:

Since publication, new files have been uploaded for the Summary and Introduction with an updated coversheet only. Figures remain unchanged.


Note 2:

Following further validation, a couple of changes were needed which meant some findings previously reported in the Infant Feeding Survey 2010: Early Results publication were reported as significant and are now not significant. These related to findings from Tables 4 and 5. These have been corrected in this report, which supersedes those findings from the Early Results.


Note 3:

An error in the Stage 1 dataset has been identified. Ninety-nine mothers stated that it was their first birth (Q3), that they had a total of 1 child (Q4) but then also selected the option to say that they had a multiple birth (Q5). The Stage 2 and Stage 3 data are unaffected and no figures in the published report or tables are affected. Users analysing the Stage 1 dataset should take this anomaly into account when including multiple births data in Stage 1 in their analysis.



The Infant Feeding Survey (IFS) has been conducted every five years since 1975. The 2010 IFS was the eighth national survey of infant feeding practices to be conducted. 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 survey is based on an initial representative sample of mothers who were selected from all births registered during August and October 2010 in the UK. 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 10,768 mothers completed and returned all three questionnaires.


A number of new questions were added to the survey in 2010, covering a range of topics including the Healthy Start scheme (a means-tested voucher scheme for pregnant women or mothers with children under 4 years old to help with basic food items), how mothers who had multiple births fed their babies, whether babies were full term or premature, as well as further exploration of the types of problems mothers may have experienced while breastfeeding.


In addition to the main findings covered in this summary, the findings of logistic regression analysis to help understand the impact of various demographic characteristics and other factors on breastfeeding initiation and prevalence at two and six weeks (based on full term babies) can be found in the Appendices.


Mothers are continuing to breastfeed for longer with initiation and prevalence rates showing increases over the last twenty years in the UK. Breastfeeding initiation was higher for babies exposed to early skin-to-skin contact and among mothers from certain demographic groups. However, the proportion of mothers following current guidelines on exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life have remained low since 2005 with only one in a hundred mothers following these guidelines. In terms of formula feeding, there has been a considerable increase in the proportion of mothers following recommended guidelines on making up feeds.  Mothers are also introducing solids later.




  • The initial breastfeeding rate increased from 76 per cent in 2005 to 81 per cent in 2010 in the UK. This includes all babies who were put to the breast at all, even if this was on one occasion only, and also includes giving expressed breastmilk.
  • The highest incidences of breastfeeding were found among mothers aged 30 or over (87 per cent), those from minority ethnic groups (97 per cent for Chinese or other ethnic group, 96 per cent for Black and 95 per cent for Asian ethnic group), those who left education aged over 18 (91 per cent), those in managerial and professional occupations (90 per cent) and those living in the least deprived areas (89 per cent).
  • The prevalence of breastfeeding fell from 81 per cent at birth to 69 per cent at one week, and to 55 per cent at six weeks.  At six months, just over a third of mothers (34 per cent) were still breastfeeding.
  • Mothers continued to breastfeed for longer in 2010 than was the case in 2005.  The gap in breastfeeding levels at birth between 2005 and 2010 was five percentage points (76 per cent in 2005 compared with 81 per cent in 2010) and by six months the gap became nine percentage points (25 per cent in 2005 compared to 34 per cent in 2010).  This suggests that policy developments to improve support and information provided to mothers to encourage them to continue breastfeeding may have had an impact.
  • Across the UK, 69 per cent of mothers were exclusively breastfeeding at birth in 2010.  At one week, less than half of all mothers (46 per cent) were exclusively breastfeeding, while this had fallen to around a quarter (23 per cent) by six weeks.  By six months, levels of exclusive breastfeeding had decreased to one per cent, indicating that very few mothers were following the UK health departments' recommendation that babies should be exclusively breastfed until around the age of six months.
  • There has been an increase in the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding at birth (from 65 per cent in 2005 to 69 per cent in 2010), but there has been little change thereafter up until six weeks.  However, the fall-out rate in later months was lower in 2010 than 2005. For example, at three months, 17 per cent of mothers were still breastfeeding exclusively (up from 13 per cent in 2005) and at four months, 12 per cent were still breastfeeding exclusively (up from 7 per cent in 2005).


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Last edited: 20 June 2018 9:49 am