Your health:

Breast-feeding booms

New mothers in the UK are adopting breast-feeding at a rapid rate, according to figures published yesterday.

In just six years the rate of women attempting breast-feeding at birth has increased by six percentage points, reaching 81%, according to the report.

And a third of women now continue breast-feeding until the baby is six months old. In 2005 it was just one quarter.

The figures, from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, show that women are more reluctant to rely solely on breast-feeding. Just 1% manage this for six months.

And they show the rise in breast-feeding is linked to improved education and women delaying childbirth - but also to ethnic minorities. Some 91% of those who stay in education until 18 breastfeed as do 87% of mothers over the age of 30.

Midwives welcomed the news.

Louise Silverton, of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "There is still room for improvement in breastfeeding among groups with traditionally lower breastfeeding rates and those who tend to breastfeed for shorter durations.

"Furthermore, there needs to be a sea change in public attitudes towards breastfeeding in public places and more need to be done to increase the visibility of breastfeeding and its acceptability in public."

Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: "Not only are more mothers initially breastfeeding at the time of their baby's birth, more of them are continuing to breastfeed for longer, which has known benefits to a child's long term health."

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