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What influences women to bottle-feed from birth and to discontinue breastfeeding early?

02 July 2017
17 min read
Volume 25 · Issue 7



Internationally, breast milk is recognised as the best form of infant feeding, yet in the UK, bottle feeding rates are among the highest in the world.


The aim of this research study was to investigate the relationship between socioeconomic, demographic, family-related, pregnancy and birth factors, and bottle feeding in the UK.


A secondary analysis of the Infant Feeding Survey 2010 was conducted and two time points differentiated: bottle feeding from birth and early breastfeeding cessation.


Results demonstrated that bottle feeding from birth was predicted by a range of independent social disadvantage factors, namely being young, single, unemployed, white British and poorly educated. Other influencing factors were the increased number of children, having a caesarean section, no underlying health problems post birth and having friends who bottle-fed. Early breastfeeding cessation was predicted by the same independent determinants except for working in intermediate or routine/manual occupations, having friends that mix-fed, and developing health problems post birth.


The context in which mothers live is a key determinant of how they feed their babies and that, for many women, feeding method is a consequence of their social context and not a choice.

Breastmilk has been widely advocated as the optimal nutrition for newborn babies and infants. In both developing and developed countries, extensive research has produced evidence to sustain claims that early nutrition has a direct influence on infant morbidity and mortality (Department of Health, 2014), and that, for most infants, breastmilk has considerable advantages over formula substitutes. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, globally, more than 800 000 children under the age of 5 years old could have been saved every year if optimally breastfed (WHO, 2014). Despite this, the UK, a developed country, is placed among those with the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.

Recommendations advise exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of an infant's life (Department of Health, 2003) but the latest figures show that, although 72.6% of women initiate exclusive breastfeeding at birth (NHS England, 2017), prevalence dramatically drops to 30% at 6–8 weeks after birth (Public Health England, 2017) and to only about 1% by the time the infant is 6 months old (McAndrew, et al, 2012).

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