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What's the difference/big deal between exclusive breastfeeding and breastfeeding?

(13 Posts)
Zipitydooda Sat 20-Aug-11 20:20:59

I was watching a clip on YouTube; one of the ones where they flash up lines about the low percentage of mothers exclusive BF at 6 weeks, 6 months etc and it got me thinking that BF is probably under reported as the majority of people I know BF but give the occasional or daily bottle of formula, myself included. I count myself as a breast feeder but have given a bottle of formula at bedtime since about 8 weeks and that works very well for me, my family and my baby. I guess I don't get counted in the percentages; how do 'they' work them out anyway? And am I negating the positive effects of BF by giving some formula? If not, shouldnt mixed feeders be included in the statistics?
Anyone know more than me and can enlighten me?

DuelingFanjo Sat 20-Aug-11 20:24:05

IIRC the stats usually show that a fair few people start off breastfeeding but by six weeks there is a massive drop and by 6 months another drop. I thin kthe issue with breastfeeding is two fold; first that the percentage of people breastfeeding is still quite small and secondly that a huge percentage of those who do breastfeed only do so for a few weeks. Certainly by six months the figures drop dramatically.

mousesma Sat 20-Aug-11 20:33:16

I'm not sure how the stats are collected but I suspect they might be based on the data collected in the red books. If this is the case then the question asked is "Feeding - any breastmilk?" which is then answered as Yes or No which means that mixed feeding is already included in the stats.

If the data isn't taken from the red books then quite possibly breastfeeding is under reported and maybe a new way of reporting should be investigated.

Zipitydooda Sat 20-Aug-11 20:35:11

Thanks Dueling, it just seemed to me that he figures reported are specifically EXCLUSIVE breastfeeding rather than any amount of breastfeeding. Therefore I, and many other people who introduce any amount of formula but still BF would contribute to this huge drop in BF figures when we are, in fact, still BF.

mousesma Sat 20-Aug-11 20:50:48

Just checked on the DH website and the UK government only provides statistical releases on the following 2 measures: breastfeeding initiation and breastfeeding prevalence at 6 to 8 weeks so none the wiser as to where the other data comes from.

Regarding the differences between EBF and mixed feeding. The main difference is the virgin gut theory that shows that even one bottle of formula changes the gut flora (possibly for the worst). I personally am of the opinion that all BF counts but there are others who feel strongly that mixed feeding is not the same as EBF.

VaginaPuddleduck Sat 20-Aug-11 20:58:54

I always understood breastfeeding to be dose related - in that the more you give, the more benefit. So one breastfeed in 100 feeds still makes a difference.

I know a lot of b/feeding advocates who don't give the virgin gut theory a whole lot of credence. It's not just about formula milk anyway, is it? It's about not having anything other than breastmilk in the stomach. So if you've given infacol, gripe water, a single formula feed when mother is in theatre for retained placenta (happened to a friend of mine who 'ebf' for two years) you're out.

VaginaPuddleduck Sat 20-Aug-11 21:00:16

Sorry, to answer your question, I have no idea how they measure it. DD2s red book has NEVER been updated with how I'm feeding her past when she was discharged from hospital at 48 hours old so I don't know how they select their sample.

mousesma Sat 20-Aug-11 21:00:41

Looking at the England stats in looks like mixed feeding is being counted in the BF numbers in both the breastfeeding initiation stats and the BF at 6-8 weeks stats.

www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsStatistics/DH_128836

Sorry drip feeding posts and talking to myself smile

So even with mixed feeding counted there is still a big drop 74% to 45% in those BF in any form at birth and those still BF in any form at 6-8 weeks.

Secondtimelucky Sat 20-Aug-11 21:49:42

I do know that in medical studies they normally use exclusive breastfeeding because (i) they are trying to isolate an effect; and (ii) mixed feeding can be such a spectrum (from one formula feed a day to the reverse) that it's hard to know if you are comparing like with like.

Zipitydooda Sat 20-Aug-11 22:07:35

Thanks everyone for clearing that thought up! I am always so amazed to get such useful and informative replies. I think I should sleep with mumsnet by the bed to answer all the questions that pop into my head at the 3am feed and stop me sleeping after!
Off to find out what the virgin gut theory is now, I have heard the words before but have no idea of the theorised benefits.

LuckyMrsT Sun 21-Aug-11 10:37:37

I think you're also crossed off the stats if you give expressed breast milk from a bottle confused. I've thought about the stats issue a bit since having DS and think it's fairly obvious that the percentage of EBF babies is going to be very low at 6 months if the definition is a baby who has never had formula, expressed breast milk and has not started weaning. Phew.

I attended a maternity conference through work where a nice lady bemoaned the UK's low EBF at 6 months stat of 2%. She had a poster that listed all the countries where mothers are so much better than us at EBFing. I remember Rwanda being up there and really wanting to ask if Rwandan babies are in so much better health than ours in that case (but resisting).

Mini rant over. I consider my DS to be EBF although he had a few bottles of formula in the early weeks and has had expressed milk since then.

tiktok Sun 21-Aug-11 16:25:59

The stats come from the five-yearly Infant Feeding survey which is a questionnaire to about 12,000 (IIRC) mothers - nothing to do with red books. The socio-economic data, age of mother and all the rest of it is collected as well.

Exclusive bf is as has been said wholly breastfeeding - the occasional bottle of formula means the baby is 'predominantly breastfed' and unforch 'predominantly breastfeeding' stats are not collected. It would be useful if they were.

Medicines including gripe water are ignored when info is collected on exclusive breastfeeding. A baby who has had one bottle of formula aged, say, 2 weeks, would still be counted as exclusively breastfed if he is only have breastmilk when the question is asked.

You are not crossed out if your baby has ebm in a bottle - this counts as breastfeeding...at least I have not heard anything to the contrary and it would be highly odd, IMO, if these babies were deemed not to be bf.

I think all this is in the preamble to the Infant Feeding survey reports which will be due to report fully on the 2010 survey soon - currently only the early data is published.

pinkgirlythoughts Sun 21-Aug-11 18:36:09

I don't know what the technical definition is, but I tend to describe my son to health professionals as being exclusively breast fed, as if I just say breast fed, I tend to get a disbelieving look and a response along the lines of "...any formula milk at all? No bottles? Just the breast?" as if they don't quite believe me -might be down to the low bf'ing rates in the area, or to my age, I don't know.

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