The surprising fact about breastfeeding in the UK vs USA

I wrote this a while ago, but for some reason it didn’t publish!!!! Breastfeeding week was 1-7 Aug! Whoops. Better late than never!


Did you know last week was breastfeeding week?  The week is dedicated to the celebration of breastfeeding and marks the anniversary of the signing of the innocenti declaration where governments pledge to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.  So this reminded me about a surprising fact I read recently:

Only one in 200 British women (0.5 per cent) are still breastfeeding a year after becoming mothers. The figure is 23 per cent in Germany and 27 per cent in the United States. *

I am British, but live in Virginia, USA and so it is interesting to see these kind of statistics.   I was surprised because I believed it would actually be the other way around.

Why is it that the UK figures are so much lower than the US? It surely can’t be because of returning back to work because maternity leave in the UK is far more generous than the US.  It has to be other cultural factors??  Seeing as I get to see two sides of the coin it got me thinking….

I have breastfed my daughter for the past 7 months and I’ve never had a bad experience with our choice to breastfeed in either country.  However, that doesn’t mean that others haven’t.  Having said that, I have experienced the ‘unsaid’.  Those ‘looks’ of disgust or staring.  Sometimes it’s other people’s actions, not necessarily words that make our experiences as breastfeeding parents challenging.

Breastfeeding in public.  Although there are horror stories of women being harassed for breastfeeding in public in both countries, I have never been harrassed personally.  In fact, in my local mall I regularly nursed in whilst on maternity leavegained media attention over a woman wrongly told by a security guard to go and feed her baby in the family room.  I don’t cover up when I nurse, the only times I have used a cover was when Aviana was in her distracted phase of nursing, but this was in an act of desperation to get my baby to feed, not because I felt uncomfortable nursing in public.  Some babies just won’t nurse covered up, Aviana is one of them.  Breastfeeding mothers should feel comfortable nursing however they wish and wherever they need to feed, covered or not.

In the US I have had the looks of disgust as I nurse.  In the UK I have also had those looks…however, they are far more ‘polite’ in their overtness of disgust, it’s hard to explain the difference, but I can see it!  Mostly, people don’t see me nursing and so just carry on with their day.  That’s the way it should be. Everyone just gets on with their day.

This was the fact that stunned me the most: “More people in the UK believe that smacking is acceptable than believe that breastfeeding in public is okay.” wow! I am going back to the UK in October and taking Aviana with me. She will be 10 months old, very different to a newborn baby. I wonder what reactions I will get there if I nurse her in public compared to when she was just 6 months old, the last time we were there?

Perhaps it’s just an awareness issue or misperceptions? I don’t know….but it sure is interesting. what are your thoughts? What have you experienced as a nursing mother? Or as an observer? Are you surprised by these statistics?

(By the way I respect however you choose to feed your babies and in by no means intend this to be a criticism for formula feeding…I am also fully aware this is a tough subject for women who wanted to breastfeed, but can’t for whatever reason. I have to supplement Aviana with formula as well as breastfeed)


Here is what international breastfeeding week promotes…
Breastfeeding is vital to the healthy growth and development of infants.
It also has important implications for the health of mothers.
WHO and UNICEF recommend:
∙ Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life
∙ Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding
infants. Exclusive breastfeeding – the infant only receives breastmilk
without any additional food or drink, not even water
∙ Breastfeeding on demand
∙ No use of boles, teats or pacifiers
∙ After 6 months, infants should receive
complementary foods with continued
breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond

*According to a study published in the Lancet in January 2016

8 thoughts on “The surprising fact about breastfeeding in the UK vs USA

  1. Disorderly Love says:

    Those statistics surprise me as well. I was just telling my husband the other day how much more suppprt those in the U.K. & Canada receive compared to the US postpartum. It’s mind blowing. It would be very interesting to learn the reasons for those stats…& here I thought I hated research 😂
    As you pointed out, some of the mothers probably weren’t able to breastfed or continue to do so for whatever reason. It happened with us & to more people than you’d think from what I’ve read but those are some low stats.
    Interesting post 🙂


  2. Amy M. says:

    That’s surprising to me as well. My goal was always to nurse for a year, but there were definitely more bad times than good in the beginning, and I didn’t even think I’d get through a month!! Now I’m looking at having to “forcefully” wean her soon!
    I’ve never personally had a bad experience feeding her out in public. I’ve never noticed any disgusted looks at all, in face I’ve had a number of people comment on what a wonderful thing I’m doing. I do use a cover in public, actually have one now that’s like a “tube” and goes all the way around me, since C always kicked off the other one. It’s partly because I don’t want to flash the world, and partly to keep her from getting distracted. When I’m at one of my mom friend’s houses, I typically don’t even bother to cover up anymore, because I’m pretty comfy with them, and most of them don’t cover either. I don’t think I’ve had a friend have a bad experience either. I think it’s (at least in this area) become such a norm that people just don’t really care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dani says:

      You’ve done a great job Amy! It’s not easy, and I’m willing to bet weaning won’t be easy either!!! But it’s all for a good reason, C won’t know that obviously, but hopefully that will help you through it mentally!!

      I think the bad experiences here in US I’ve read about are probably hyped up, because local news media is big on that kind of stuff I tend to find!!! So it might be a perception v reality thing. I carry round a business card that has the Virginia laws that support breastfeeding in public. Never had to use it though!
      I have t done much breastfeeding in public recently just because A gets distracted a lot! But when I have it’s been when she’s in the carrier…I was walking around with a garden designer and after about half hour she said…ohhh she must be sleeping she’s been so quiet – I said no, she’s been feeding! She didn’t even notice me whipping the boob out and walking around breastfeeding!!! So it can be discreet anyway!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy M. says:

        I’ve never fed her while in the carrier. I actually don’t even use the carrier too often. We both tend to run hot, and having her attached to me just makes it worse lol!!


  3. dubliner in deutschland says:

    It’s pretty common here in Germany, I’ve often seen women in cafes here breastfeeding. People here are also very open about their bodies (for instance there are naked saunas and areas at the lakes). In Ireland and the UK people tend to me more prudish. That’s the impression I get and I’m speaking of myself too! So my guess is that might be something to do with why it’s less “acceptable” there. I don’t know how to explain why it’s so good in the US though since as you say the maternity leave is so bad there! Maybe there are more stay at home mums?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dani says:

      I have done the naked thing in Germany and I found it sooo hard, but I did it and relaxed eventually, so I can understand that this definitely one of the differences. But I find Americans can be quite prudish too! But then America has many different cultures across the states, so I wonder what differences are across the states…*hmmmm mind cogs going…!!!!


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