Proportion of new mothers in England who partially breastfeed their babies is on the rise

The proportion of new mothers in England who feed their babies with both formula and breast milk is on the rise, new figures suggest.

The figures from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) show that in 2022-23 some 17.7% of babies aged six to eight weeks are "partially breastfed".

That is a rise from 16.6% in 2021-22 and 15.7% in 2020-21.

The figure for mixed-feeding, also known as combi-feeding, has steadily increased each year over the last five years.

According to the NHS, combi-feeding may be a good option if a woman is sharing the feeding responsibility with their partner or family members.

The health service says it may also be suitable if a mother is mainly breastfeeding but also wants to offer infant formula, is bottle feeding but wants to start breastfeeding, or is struggling with breastfeeding and needs to give their baby some formula.

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The NHS recommends mothers breastfeed exclusively for six to eight weeks after the birth to allow their milk supply to become fully established.

After that, the NHS recommends mothers who want to combi-feed to replace one of their baby's regular daily feeds with a bottle.

Both the NHS and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life due to the benefits which include protecting them from infections and providing a good balance of nutrients.

However, there are a number of reasons why women are unable to breastfeed, such as a lack of milk, sore nipples, or difficulties in getting the baby to latch on.

The data on combi-feeding was published as part of annual breastfeeding figures.

The 2022-23 figures also show that almost half of babies in England (49.2%) were breastfed in some way when they were six to eight weeks old - including 31.5% who were exclusively breastfed.

Two in five babies (40.7%) were not breastfed at all.