Breastfeeding Initiation in Canada: Key Statistics and Graphics (2009-2010)

The 2009-2010 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) looked at how many women who had given birth in the last 5 years breastfed or tried to breastfeed their last child and their reasons for not breastfeeding.

Key statistics and graphics on breastfeeding initiation in Canada from the CCHS 2009-2010 are presented below.Footnote 1 In the descriptions below, a difference between two estimates is considered statistically significant when the 95% confidence intervals do not overlap.

Breastfeeding initiation

Breastfeeding initiation refers to mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed their last child even if only for a short time.

Questions on breastfeeding initiation were asked of mothers between the ages of 15 and 55 who had given birth in the last 5 years.

Breastfeeding initiation in 2009-2010

  • 87.3% of Canadian mothers breastfed or tried to breastfeed their last child.
  • The percentage of mothers who reported breastfeeding or trying to breastfeed their last child increased significantly from 81.5% in 2001 to 84.9% in 2003.
  • Since 2003, breastfeeding initiation rates have remained stable.

Breastfeeding initiation by selected socio-demographic characteristics

The percentage of mothers in Canada who initiated breastfeeding their last baby varied by selected socio-demographic characteristics.

Household income

  • Significantly fewer mothers in the lowest income quintile (81.0%) initiated breastfeeding than mothers in all other income quintiles.Footnote 2

Highest level of education attained

  • Significantly more mothers who were post-secondary graduates initiated breastfeeding (90.5%) than mothers with some post-secondary education (81.4%), secondary graduation (81.9%) or less than secondary education (76.5%).

Breastfeeding initiation by income and education, Canada, 2009-2010

This bar graph shows the percentage of mothers who initiated breastfeeding by income and education for the data collection period 2009-2010 of the Canadian Community Health Survey.
It is based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years. Breastfeeding initiation refers to mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed their last child even if only for a short time.

In Canada overall, 87.3 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
In the lowest income quintile, quintile 1, 81.0 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
In quintile 2, 88.7 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
In quintile 3, 88.4 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
In quintile 4, 90.2 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
In the highest income quintile, quintile 5, 92.6 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
Among those with less than secondary graduation, 76.5 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
Among those with secondary graduation, 81.9 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
Among those with some post-secondary education, 81.4 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
Among those with post-secondary graduation, 90.5 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding initiation by income and education, Canada, 2009-2010

Based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years.
Breastfeeding initiation refers to mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed their last child even if only for a short time.

Source: Health Canada
Data Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2009-2010

Cultural/racial background

  • Significantly more mothers who were of Asian (93.5%) or Black (93.9%) cultural or racial background initiated breastfeeding their last child than did  White mothers (86.7%).Footnote 3, Footnote 4

Aboriginal status

  • Significantly fewer off-reserve Aboriginal mothersFootnote 5 initiated breastfeeding (77.8%) than did non-Aboriginal mothers (88.0%).

Immigrant status

  • Significantly more non-recent immigrantFootnote 6 (≥ 5 years) mothers initiated breastfeeding (93.1%) than did non-immigrant mothers (85.6%).

Breastfeeding initiation by cultural/racial background, Aboriginal status and immigrant status, Canada, 2009-2010

This bar graph shows the percentage of mothers who initiated breastfeeding by cultural/racial background, Aboriginal status and immigrant status for the data collection period 2009-2010 of the Canadian Community Health Survey. It is based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years. Breastfeeding initiation refers to mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed their last child even if only for a short time.

In Canada overall, 87.3 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
Among those with Asian cultural/racial background, 93.5 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
Among those with a Black cultural/racial background, 93.9 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
Among those with a White cultural/racial background, 86.7 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
Among those with a cultural/racial background in the other category, 85.3 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
Among Aboriginal mothers, 77.8 percent initiated breastfeeding.
Among Non-Aboriginal mothers, 88.0 percent initiated breastfeeding.
Among non-immigrant mothers, 85.6 percent initiated breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding initiation by cultural/racial background, Aboriginal status and immigrant status, Canada, 2009-2010

Based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years.
Breastfeeding initiation refers to mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed their last child even if only for a short time.

Source: Health Canada
Data Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2009-2010

Mother's Age

  • At the national level, the percentage of mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed their baby was similar across mothers' age groups.

Marital status

  • Significantly more married/common-law mothers (88.5%) initiated breastfeeding than mothers who were widowed/separated/divorced/single (80.6%).

Area of residence

  • Overall, no significant differences in breastfeeding initiation rates existed between mothers residing in urban areas (87.5%) and mothers residing in rural areas (86.3%).Footnote 7

Breastfeeding initiation by age, marital status and area of residence, Canada, 2009-2010

This bar graph shows the percentage of mothers who initiated breastfeeding by age, marital status and area of residence for the data collection period 2009-2010 of the Canadian Community Health Survey. It is based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years. Breastfeeding initiation refers to mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed their last child even if only for a short time.

In Canada overall, 87.3 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
Among mothers aged 15 to 24 years, 84.0 percent initiated breastfeeding.
Among mothers aged 25 to 34 years, 86.8 percent initiated breastfeeding.
Among mothers aged 35 to 55 years, 89.0 percent initiated breastfeeding.
Among mothers who were married or common-law, 88.5 percent initiated breastfeeding.
Among mothers who were widowed, separated, divorced or single, 80.6 percent initiated breastfeeding.
Among mothers living in an urban area, 87.5 percent initiated breastfeeding.
Among mothers living in a rural area, 86.3 percent initiated breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding initiation by age, marital status and area of residence, Canada, 2009-2010

Based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years.
Breastfeeding initiation refers to mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed their last child even if only for a short time.

Source: Health Canada
Data Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2009-2010

Breastfeeding initiation by region

In 2009-2010, the percentage of mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed their last baby in the Atlantic Provinces and Quebec was significantly lower than the national average. The breastfeeding initiation rate in the Prairies and British Columbia was significantly higher than the national average.

Percentage of mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed by region, Canada, 2009-2010

This map of Canada shows the percentage of mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed in six Canadian regions for the data collection period 2009-2010 of the Canadian Community Health Survey. It also shows whether the percentage of mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed in each region was significantly below the Canadian average, near the Canadian average or significantly above the Canadian average. It is based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years.

In Canada overall, 87.3 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding.
In British Columbia, 93.1 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding. The percentage of mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed in British Columbia is above the Canadian average.
In the Prairie region, which includes Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 90.6 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding. The percentage of mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed in the Prairie region is above the Canadian average.
In Ontario, 88.5 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding. The percentage of mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed in Ontario is near the Canadian average.
In Quebec, 82.7 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding. The percentage of mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed in Quebec is below the Canadian average.
In the Atlantic region, which includes New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, 74.8 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding. The percentage of mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed in the Atlantic region is below the Canadian average.

Percentage of mothers who breastfed or tried to breastfeed by region, Canada, 2009-2010

Based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years.

Source: Health Canada
Data Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2009-2010

Reasons for not breastfeeding

The top three reasons cited by mothers for not breastfeeding or trying to breastfeed their last child wereFootnote 8:

  • mother has a medical condition (20.5%);
  • bottle feeding is easier (19.8%); and,
  • breastfeeding is unappealing (19.0%).

Reason provided by mother for not breastfeeding or trying to breastfeed their last child, Canada, 2009-2010

This bar graph shows the reason provided by the mother for not breastfeeding or trying to breastfeed their last baby for the data collection period 2009-2010 of the Canadian Community Health Survey. It is based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years.

Mother had a medical condition was the reason provided by 20.5 percent of mothers.
Bottle feeding is easier was the reason provided by 19.8 percent of mothers.
Breastfeeding is unappealing was the reason provided by 19.0 percent of mothers.
A complicated birth, including C-section, premature birth, or multiple births, was the reason provided by 9.8 percent of mothers. This estimate has a coefficient of variation between 16.6 percent and 33.3 percent; use with caution.
Formula is as good as breast milk was the reason provided by 6.6 percent of mothers. This estimate has a coefficient of variation between 16.6 percent and 33.3 percent; use with caution.
All other reasons, including father or partner does not want mother to, mother returned to school or work early, medical condition in baby, mother wanted to smoke, mother wanted to drink alcohol or other, was the reason provided by 24.3 percent of mothers.

Reason provided by mother for not breastfeeding or trying to breastfeed their last child, Canada, 2009-2010

E - Data with a coefficient of variation from 16.6% to 33.3%; interpret with caution.

Based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years.
Complicated birth - Includes c-section, premature birth, and multiple births.
All other reasons - Includes father/partner do not want me to, mother returned to school/work early, medical condition in baby, mother wanted to smoke, mother wanted to drink alcohol, and other.

Source: Health Canada
Data Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2009-2010

Copyright guidelines

Please ensure that Health Canada Copyright Guidelines are adhered to when using data, graphs or the map from this webpage.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Privacy statement

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: