Protection, promotion and support of breast-feeding in Europe: current situation

Public Health Nutr. 2005 Feb;8(1):39-46. doi: 10.1079/phn2005660.


Objective: To describe the current situation regarding protection, promotion and support of breast-feeding in Europe, as a first step towards the development of a blueprint for action.

Design and setting: A questionnaire was completed by 29 key informants and 128 other informants in the EU, including member states, accession and candidate countries.

Results: EU countries do not fully comply with the policies and recommendations of the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding that they endorsed during the 55th World Health Assembly in 2002. Some countries do not even comply with the targets of the Innocenti Declaration (1990). Pre-service training on breast-feeding practice is inadequate and in-service training achieves only low to medium coverage. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is well developed only in three countries; in 19 countries, less than 15% of births occur in baby-friendly hospitals. The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, endorsed in 1981 by all countries, is not fully applied and submitted to independent monitoring. The legislation for working mothers meets on average the International Labour Organization standards, but covers only women with full formal employment. Voluntary mother-to-mother support groups and trained peer counsellors are present in 27 and 13 countries, respectively. Breast-feeding rates span over a wide range; comparisons are difficult due to use of non-standard methods. The rate of exclusive breast-feeding at 6 months is low everywhere, even in countries with high initiation rates.

Conclusions: EU countries need to revise their policies and practices to meet the principles inscribed in the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding in order to better protect, promote and support breast-feeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding* / psychology
  • Breast Feeding* / statistics & numerical data
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • International Cooperation
  • Mothers / education*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women, Working* / education
  • Women, Working* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Women, Working* / psychology