Breastfeeding Statistics

Breastfeeding baby

How widespread is breastfeeding? Health Canada, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control provide annual statistics that show upward trends over the past decade that seem to be flattening out recently. This past summer, the Toronto Globe & Mail ran a story following the release of the latest numbers to ask, “Why aren’t more women breastfeeding?”

ever breastfedearly post-partum@6 mos@12 mosexclusive <3/4 mosexclusive <6 mos
Canada (2006) [1]90.3%  51.7%14.4%
Canada (2009) [2]87.5%  24.4%
U.S. (2006) [3]73.9%43.4%22.7%33.1%13.6%
U.S. 1998 baseline [4]64%29%16%
U.S. 2010 target [4]75%50%25%

[1] WHO Global Data Bank on Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF), World Health Organization, 2006-2007.
[2] Breastfeeding 2009, Statistics Canada.
[3] Frequently Asked Questions, U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
[4] Healthy People 2010, Maternal, Infant, and Child Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

More Resources

The World Health Organization now provides growth charts for exclusively breastfed children. When I was a baby, my mother chose to breastfeed me exclusively until 6 months, when her doctor told her that my growth was off the charts and she should switch to bottle feeding me to keep me from getting too big. This kind of ill-informed medical advice can be avoided with charts that show growth trends for breastfed babies exclusive from bottle-fed or mixed-fed babies.

The World Health Organization also provides infant feeding statistics for countries around the world. The Canada breastfeeding chart and United States breastfeeding chart provide province-by-province and state-by-state report cards.

Health Canada provides clear support for breastfeeding with guidelines, resources, and even a workbook for community-based educators.

In the United States, breastfeeding statistics come from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Immunization Survey. In the report, “Breastfeeding Among U.S. Children Born 1999—2007,” the charts are very helpful in visualizing the change in breastfeeding over the past decade.

The U.S. has set breastfeeding targets through Healthy People 2010. One of the objectives (16-19) is exclusively about breastfeeding.

Image © Paul Hakimata |

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