Infant feeding in Asian families: early practices and growth

Title: Infant feeding in Asian families: early practices and growth.


A survey exploring the infant feeding practices of families living in England and of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin. It is the first survey of its kind and was carried out between 1994 and 1996.


Data was collected via interviews with mothers and body measurements of babies aged between six weeks and 15 months. As a control, data was also collected from sub-samples of white families livng in the same areas as the Asian families. The survey covers topics such as choice of feeding method, breast versus bottle feeding, feeding problems, growth rates, and sources of help and advice during pregnancy and up to 15 after birth. It also examines approaches to the introduction of solid food and the use of vitamins and food supplements. This publication presents the key results from the survey and includes a detailed description of the methodology. Cites numerous references. Stationery Office Publication.

Summary of main findings
The incidence of breastfeeding was 90% among Bangladeshi, 82% among Indian, 76% among Pakistani and 62% among White mothers. The highest incidence of breastfeeding in all groups was among mothers of first babies. Of mothers who started to breastfeed, Pakistani and Bangladeshi mothers stopped breastfeeding sooner than either Indian or White mothers. By the time their babies were eight weeks old, of those who started to breastfeed, just over half the Indian and White (52% and 54%), nearly half the Bangladeshi (46%) and just over a third (36%) of the Pakistani mothers were still breastfeeding. At four months, of those who started to breast feed, 39% of White, 34% of Indian, 25% of Bangladeshi and 21% of Pakistani mothers were still breastfeeding.

The most frequent reasons given at all interviews for having stopped breastfeeding were “insufficient milk” and “the baby would not suck”. White mothers were more likely than Asian mothers to hold or breastfeed their baby immediately. Mothers who breastfed immediately were much less likely to stop than those who waited more than 24 hours to breastfeed. Eighty per cent of Bangladeshi and about three-quarters of other mothers who ever breastfed had their baby beside them all the time in hospital. A high proportion of those whose baby was not always with them said that nurses sometimes fed their baby. Mothers who had a caesarean delivery and started breastfeeding were more likely than others to give up. By the time mothers who ever breastfed left hospital, White mothers were more likely than Asian mothers to be breastfeeding completely. Pakistani and Bangladeshi mothers were about twice as likely as Indian mothers and three times as likely as White mothers to leave hospital bottle feeding completely. Some mothers delayed breastfeeding until they got home. Of mothers born outside the UK, about four out of ten Indian and Pakistani and three out of ten Bangladeshi mothers who bottle fed initially or stopped breastfeeding to bottle feed said that they would have fed their baby differently if s(he) had not been born in the UK.


A survey carried out in England by the Social Survey Division of the Office for National Statistics on behalf of the Department of Health.


Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of The Federation of Antenatal Educators (FEDANT) unless specifically stated.

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