HC Deb 27 July 1988 vol 138 c365W
Dame Jill Knight

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects publication of the report on the infant feeding survey by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Currie

The report of the third survey of infant feeding practice, "Infant Feeding 1985", produced by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) is being published today. We welcome this report. This scientific survey of infant feeding practice is part of the Government's continuous monitoring of the health of the population. It is unique to this country, and produces valuable evidence for health professionals.

Key points in the report are: No improvement in breast feeding "starts" between 1980 and 1985, with some decline among particular groups of mothers; overall, 65 per cent, down to 64 per cent. Some decline amongst particular groups of mothers; among mothers of first babies, 74 per cent, to 69 per cent.; and among such mothers who left school aged 16 or less, 65 per cent, to 58 per cent. Little change in duration of breast feeding since 1980. Only half of all babies are breast-fed for as long as two weeks; only a quarter of four months or more.

Highest incidence of breast feeding is among mothers of first babies:

  • in higher social classes;
  • educated beyond 18;
  • living in London and South-east;
  • on maternity leave.

There is no evidence to show that mothers who return to paid employment six weeks after the birth are any less likely to begin breast feeding than mothers not in paid employment.

Although breast feeding may have reached its maximum among higher social class mothers at around 85 per cent., there is ample scope to encourage other mothers but they will need advice and support.

Giving infant formula in the first week is associated with ceasing to breast feed within two weeks.

Mothers likely to stop breast feeding early are those who do not put the baby to breast within the first few hours of life.

The surveys also provide the factual basis for the reports from the chief medical officer's Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA). The COMA report based on this survey and entitled "Present day practice in Infant Feeding: Third Report" was published in February.