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How many mothers breastfeed their children and for how long?

36/2009, 21.12.2009

Concept of the BfR National Breastfeeding Committee for monitoring breastfeeding behaviour

In Germany only very few systematic studies are available on breastfeeding. Hence, it is not possible to assess in a reliable manner whether the steps taken so far to promote breastfeeding have been effective. The National Breastfeeding Committee within the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is, therefore, of the opinion that there is an urgent need for national monitoring of breastfeeding behaviour and has submitted a concept to this end. Prior to its implementation, it is asking stakeholders in the health care system for comments, tips and support.

Expert bodies around the globe support the promotion of breastfeeding and infant nutrition. This is seen as an important health policy measure. Breast milk not only supplies the necessary macronutrients and micronutrients that babies need to grow and thrive but also - given its special composition - protects them from acute and chronic diseases. Furthermore, breastfeeding has a positive impact on the emotional bond between mother and child.

As very few systematic studies on breastfeeding behaviour have been available up to now in Germany, it is difficult to judge the success of existing measures to promote breastfeeding. Consequently, the National Breastfeeding Committee believes that there is an urgent need for the setting up of a national breastfeeding monitoring scheme. A draft prepared by the Committee was presented for the first time at the end of September 2009. The multi-modal concept encompasses structures of pre- and post-natal care, for instance obstetrics, paediatric screening examinations and school entry medical check-ups as well as experience from epidemiological studies and new approaches for intervention in the case of risk groups like the socially disadvantaged and mothers from a migration background. Breastfeeding monitoring would make possible the systematic, ongoing recording of comparable data on breastfeeding for the first time in Germany. The results could be used for time-based, regional comparisons and help to identify long-term breastfeeding trends and compounding factors. Hence, monitoring would provide a substantial basis for the targeted, problem-oriented promotion of breastfeeding.

The monitoring concept is posted (in German) on the BfR website under menu item “National Breastfeeding Committee”. The Committee believes it is necessary to involve numerous stakeholders in the health care system in the proposed structural measures and, therefore, asks for feedback and tips for implementation. Contact via email:


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