Almost three quarters of the British public believe that it is better for babies to be breast fed, while nearly one in five thinks that neither breastfeeding nor bottle feeding is significantly better than the other when it comes to what’s best for a newborn child, our poll has found.
Women are twice as likely as men to say that it makes no difference which method is used, while older people are half as likely again to believe that breastfeeding is the better choice.
- 72% in total feel that it is better for babies to be breast fed
- 55% think that it is ‘much better’, while 17% say it is ‘slightly better’
- 17% say that neither breastfeeding nor bottle feeding is significantly better than the other
- Just 1% feel that it is better for babies to be bottle fed
Age and gender appear to be a factor, with women less likely to feel that there is much difference between the two options, compared to the over 60s who are more likely to see breastfeeding as the superior choice.
- 22% of women say that neither method is significantly better than the other, compared to just 11% of men
- 59% of those over 60 say that breastfeeding is the ‘much better’ option, compared to just 40% of their younger 18 to 24-year old counterparts
Happier and healthier?
The figures come in the wake of often-fierce debate in the press over the best feeding method for babies. While many recent news stories have strongly suggested that breastfeeding results in happier, healthier, more intelligent, better behaved and more sociable offspring, and the World Health Organisation recommends that all women breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate food for up to two years*, women have been quick to hit back at the suggestion that a new mother’s failure or inability to breastfeed puts her child at a serious disadvantage.
Television programmes such as BBC Three’s Is Breast Best? have joined similar online and newspaper discussions in exploring different women’s experiences of breastfeeding (or lack thereof), detailing how many find it near-impossible to breastfeed after giving birth, leading to possible feelings of guilt or inadequacy, in contrast with others who continue until their child is toddler-age or older, often to equally unsettling reactions, and others who insist it makes little difference whether a baby is breastfed or not.
*This article was corrected on 18th May 2011 to clarify the WHO guidelines on breastfeeding. See the WHO website for further information.