Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. However, contrary to WHO recommendations, fewer than half of infants under 6 months old are exclusively breastfed. Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean and contains antibodies which help protect against many common childhood illnesses. Breastmilk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life. Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life. Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

WHO and UNICEF recommend that children initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life – meaning no other foods or liquids are provided, including water. (World Health Organisation, 2023).

The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates globally. Women that are least likely to breastfeed are young, white, leave school early and are from lower socio economic groups.

Source: Unicef/PHE Commissioning Infant Feeding Services Toolkit

Source: Unicef/PHE Commissioning Infant Feeding Services Toolkit

Data Overview

Totally breastfed is defined as infants who are exclusively receiving breast milk - that is, they are not receiving formula milk, any other liquids or food. Partially breastfed is defined as infants who are currently receiving breast milk and who are also receiving formula milk or any other liquids or food. Not at all breastfed is defined as infants who are not currently receiving any breast milk.

Across Oldham in 2020/21, 58.7% of babies were breastfed within their first 48 hours of life. By the age of 6-8 weeks, this figure had dropped to 41%. Latest data from 2021/22 reveals an Oldham breastfeeding rate for babies aged 6-8 weeks of 39.7%. This falls short of the England rate of 49.2%. The rate in Oldham has remained below the national average throughout the entire data period shown in figure 1.

Complete regional and Greater Manchester level data is not available for comparative purposes due to data quality issues. Within Greater Manchester rates are available for Stockport, Manchester, Oldham, Tameside and Wigan. These rates have been presented in figure 2. Of the Local Authorities with available data in Greater Manchester, Oldham ranks third highest for breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks.

Figure 1: Breastfeeding prevalence at 6-8 weeks trend
Source: OHID's (formerly PHE) interim reporting of health visitor metrics

Figure 2: Breastfeeding prevalence at 6-8 weeks across Greater Manchester
Source: OHID's (formerly PHE) interim reporting of health visitor metrics

Further Information & Resources

WHO Breastfeeding Guidelines and Information
WHO actively promotes breastfeeding as the best source of nourishment for infants and young children, and is working to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months up to at least 50% by 2025. WHO and UNICEF created the Global Breastfeeding Collective to rally political, legal, financial, and public support for breastfeeding. The Collective brings together implementers and donors from governments, philanthropies, international organizations, and civil society. WHO’s Network for Global Monitoring and Support for Implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, also known as NetCode, works to ensure that breast-milk substitutes are not marketed inappropriately. Additionally, WHO provides training courses for health workers to provide skilled support to breastfeeding mothers, help them overcome problems, and monitor the growth of children.

Global Breastfeeding Scorecard 2022
The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard examines national performance on key indicators of the seven policy priorities identified by the Global Breastfeeding Collective. The 2022 Scorecard documents progress and challenges in improving infant and young child feeding (IYCF) against these priorities.

National Infant Feeding Network
Supported by UNICEF UK, the network shares and promotes evidence-based practice around infant feeding and very early childhood development to deliver optimum health and wellbeing outcomes for mothers and babies and their families.

Commissioning Infant Feeding Services Toolkit
Commissioning Infant Feeding Services: A toolkit for Local Authorities provides guidance to help local commissioners protect, promote and support breastfeeding. The document was jointly authored by Public Health England and Unicef.

OHID Breastfeeding Quarterly Statistics
Published statistics on breastfeeding, including prevalence at 6 to 8 weeks after birth.

OHID's Child and Maternal Health Profiles
For further data on breastfeeding


Health and Wellbeing Board

Oldham Council

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