Who has the Lowest Breastfeeding Rate? You Might be Surprised

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With all the studies and information available in the US about the benefits of breastfeeding, we must have a pretty high rate of breastfeeding, right? Not so fast….

In fact, comparing the UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children” report with data from the CDC, the US has the second-lowest rate of babies who have ever been breastfed (73.9%). At 71.6%, only Papua New Guinea ranks lower.

UNICEF doesn’t have overall statistics for European breastfeeding rates, but individual data suggests that rates of exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to 6 months old are as low as (or even lower than) in the US. In Norway, where 99% of babies are ever breastfed, only 9% are exclusively breastfed at 6 months. And only 2% of babies in Ireland are exclusively breastfed at age 6 months.

You could say, “Yes, but 6 months is when you start introducing your baby to other foods.” And that’s true, but this statistic captures all babies up to 6 months of age. And in Rwanda, 88% of them are exclusively breastfed compared with 16% in the US.

As you look at the World Breastfeeding Rates infographic below, it’s interesting to ask yourself why, when all evidence suggests that breastfeeding is the healthiest option for babies, the developed world breastfeeds at a much lower rate than the developing world.

Breastfeeding Rates Worldwide