About this release

This annual release from Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides an update of infant feeding statistics including data for children eligible for child health reviews in the financial year 2022/23.

Encouraging and supporting breastfeeding is an important public health activity. There is strong evidence that breastfeeding protects the health of children and mothers.  The information is collected at Health Visitor reviews of children at around 10-14 days (First Visit), 6-8 weeks, and 13-15 months of age.

Main points

  • Two out of three (66%) babies born in Scotland in 2022/23 were breastfed for at least some time after their birth.
  • In 2022/23 57% of babies were being breastfed at 10-14 days of age. This has increased from 44% in 2002/03, mainly due to an increase in mixed breast and formula feeding.
Image caption Current feeding at Health Visitor First Visit, 2002/03 to 2022/23
  • In 2022/23, almost half (47%) of babies were still being breastfed by the time of their 6-8 week review, and 28% had always been exclusively breastfed since birth.
  • Increases in breastfeeding over the past 10 years have been greatest among those groups with historically lower rates, such as younger women and those living in more deprived areas. This means inequalities in breastfeeding have reduced over time.


Breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for babies and young children and supports children’s health in the short and longer term. Current guidance recommends that babies should receive just breast milk for the first 6 months of life, then, after introduction of solid foods, should continue to breastfeed up to their second birthday or for as long as the mother and baby wish.

There is strong evidence that breastfeeding reduces children’s risk of gut, chest, and ear infections and leads to a small but significant improvement in brain development and IQ.  Breastfeeding also benefits mothers’ health, with strong evidence that it reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and some evidence that it may also promote maternal healthy weight and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. The benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mother are seen across the world, including in high income countries such as Scotland.

Improving breastfeeding rates in Scotland would help to improve the health of babies and mothers, and reduce inequalities in health.

There is good evidence that interventions can work to improve breastfeeding rates. Overall, it is likely that comprehensive approaches that consider a wide range of issues will be most effective. Interventions within the health service, such as ensuring the availability and quality of breastfeeding support for new mothers, are important. Equally, wider interventions, such as influencing public attitudes to breastfeeding, restricting the inappropriate promotion of formula milk, and ensuring supportive employment policies that allow women to continue to breastfeed after returning to work, will also be required.


Further information

Open data from this publication is available from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform.

The next release of this publication will be November 2024.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please contact Dr Lynda Fenton at phs.childhealthstats@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
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