How long do mothers breastfeed in Germany?
Breast milk is the most natural form of nutrition for babies. What’s more, breastfeeding is good for both mother and child: breast milk promotes the baby’s development, protects him from disease and has a beneficial effect on his health right into adulthood. The National Committee for the Promotion of Breastfeeding at BfR recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months of their life if at all possible. “When coupled with additional food”, commented the Chairwoman of the National Breastfeeding Commission, Professor Hildegard Przyrembel, “there is no reason not to continue breastfeeding beyond six months if mother and infant wish to.” For 10 years the Breastfeeding Commission has supported and promoted breastfeeding in Germany. The degree of its success is to be determined by a study that is about to start at two Berlin clinics and is to run until summer next year.
Questions concerning how long mothers breastfeed their infants on average in Germany today, whether they tend to follow the recommendations of the Breastfeeding Commission or stop far earlier cannot be answered at the present time. There are no systematic studies on how long women breastfeed or on the decisions which prompt them to wean their babies earlier than recommended. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment is, therefore, launching a study in two Berlin clinics on the breastfeeding behaviour of women after giving birth.
The goal of the study is to record up-to-date data on breastfeeding duration and to identify the factors that influence breastfeeding behaviour. Women who give birth to a baby over the next six months in the Virchow Clinic and in the Vivantes Clinic Neukölln will be interviewed soon after the birth of their child and again at two, four and six monthly intervals about their experiences with breastfeeding. The data collection will be completed by July 2005.
The National Breastfeeding Commission wishes to derive practical breastfeeding recommendations from the results of the study. They should help to improve the breastfeeding conditions for women in Germany. The study forms the foundation for the development of a standardised monitoring system that is to be used in future to reliably re-cord breastfeeding data throughout Germany.