Breastfeeding in Sweden continues to decrease. Of the children born in 2009, 84.5% were completely breastfed, according to new statistics from Socialstyrelsen (the National Board of Health and Welfare). It’s a 4.9% decrease since 2004, and a 10% decrease since 1990, when the breastfeeding trend was very strong.
“Today’s parents talk a lot about needing time for themselves and the fact that moms need to sleep,” says Marianne Bergström, who works with nursing care in Stockholm Municipality and who has participated in the study. Bergström points to the fact that many first moms are older today and have started careers and habits before the baby arrived as one possible reason for the decrease in breastfeeding. That the dad also wants to help with the baby is another possible reason, she adds. “If dad feeds baby with the bottle, then that’s not going to help breastfeeding,” Bergström says. Giving formula to children at an early age will affect breastfeeding later on as well. At two months, 69.4% of the babies in the study were nursed full time, compared to 77.3% in 2004.
“If you use the bottle, the mother’s breast doesn’t get the stimulus it needs in order to keep producing milk,” Bergström continues. Sofia Zwedberg, a specialist midwife at Amningscentrum at the Karolinska Institute in Solna agrees that breastfeeding is a trend. “I meet many women who have trouble breastfeeding. It’s supposed to be simple, natural and cozy. And perhaps it hurts or the baby isn’t interested in eating at first.”
Regional differences are also noted. In Stockholm Municipality, 91.6% of all 2-month olds were breastfed compared with 84.8% in Jönköping Municipality. The differences were even greater for babies 6 months old. While 71% of the Stockholm moms were still breastfeeding (partially or completely), only 59.2% of the moms in Värmland were. “Breast is better,” says Marianne Bergström. “Formula can never give the same protection against infections as breast milk.”
Breastfeeding is decreasing among Swedish moms. The fact that many first time mothers are older today may be one reason: Careers and habits are already in place when the baby arrives.