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Public Health Nutr. 2016 Mar;19(4):753-64. doi: 10.1017/S1368980015001767. Epub 2015 Jun 22.

Breastfeeding practices and policies in WHO European Region Member States.

Author information

1Department of Public Health,School of Medicine,Hacettepe University,Ankara,Turkey.
2MRC Human Nutrition Research,Darwin College,Cambridge,Silver Street,Cambridge CB3 9EU,UK.
3Department of Human Performance,Hong Kong University,Pokfulam,Hong Kong SAR,People's Republic of China.
4Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-Course,WHO Regional Office for Europe,Copenhagen,Denmark.



To provide an update on current practices and policy development status concerning breastfeeding in the WHO European Region.


National surveys and studies conducted by national health institutions were prioritized. Sub-national data were included where no national data or studies existed. Information on national breastfeeding policies was collected mainly from the WHO Seventh Meeting of Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative Coordinators and European Union projects. Owing to the different data sources and methods, any comparisons between countries must be made with caution.


WHO European Member States.


Data from fifty-three WHO European Member States were investigated; however, a large proportion had not reported any data. Rates of early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding to 1 year all varied considerably within the WHO European Region. Exclusive breastfeeding rates declined considerably after 4 months, and were low in infants under 6 months and at 6 months of age. The majority of the countries with existing data reported having a national infant and young child feeding policy and the establishment of a national committee on breastfeeding or infant and young child feeding. The majority of the countries with existing data reported having baby-friendly hospitals, although the proportion of baby-friendly hospitals to the total number of national hospitals with maternity units was low in most countries.


Breastfeeding practices within the WHO European Region, especially exclusive breastfeeding rates, are far from complying with the WHO recommendations. There are marked differences between countries in breastfeeding practices, infant and young child feeding policy adoption and proportion of baby-friendly hospitals.


Baby-friendly hospitals; Breastfeeding; Policy; WHO European Member States

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