Duration of Exclusive Breastfeeding in Canada: Key Statistics and Graphics (2009-2010)

The  2009-2010 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) looked at how long women who had given birth in the last 5 years breastfed their last child and when they first introduced liquids or solids.

Key statistics and graphics on the duration of exclusive breastfeeding in Canada from the CCHS 2009-2010 are presented below.Footnote1 In the descriptions below, a difference between two estimates is considered statistically significant when the 95% confidence intervals do not overlap.

Duration of exclusive breastfeeding

Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) and allows the baby to receive vitamins, minerals or medicine. Water, breast milk substitutes, other liquids and solid foods are excluded.

The duration of exclusive breastfeeding is a derived variable based on the Maternal Experiences - Breastfeeding (MEX) Module questions about length of breastfeeding and the introduction of liquids or solids. The questions were asked of mothers between the ages of 15 and 55 who had given birth in the last 5 years. While the derived variable specification changed in CCHS 2009-2010, the new specification was used when looking at trends in breastfeeding duration across all cycles of CCHS.Footnote2

Exclusive breastfeeding duration in 2009-2010

  • 25.9% of mothers exclusively breastfed their last child for the recommended 6 months (17.6%) or more (8.3%).

Duration of exclusive breastfeeding, Canada, 2009-2010

This bar graph shows the duration of exclusive breastfeeding by mothers 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. Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) to babies. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding is a derived variable based on questions about length of breastfeeding and the introduction of liquids or solids.

In 2009-2010, 13.5 percent of mothers did not breastfeed their last baby.
In 2009-2010, 11.9 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for less than one week.
In 2009-2010, 13.3 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby between one week and less than 5 weeks.
In 2009-2010, 8.3 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby between 5 weeks and less than 12 weeks.
In 2009-2010, 8.9 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby between 12 weeks and less than 16 weeks, 3 months.
In 2009-2010, 9.4 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby between 16 weeks and less than 20 weeks, 4 months.
In 2009-2010, 8.8 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby between 20 weeks and less than 24 weeks, 5 months.
In 2009-2010, 17.6 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby between 24 weeks and less than 28 weeks, 6 months.
In 2009-2010, 8.3 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for 28 weeks or more, 7 plus months.

Duration of exclusive breastfeeding, Canada, 2009-2010

Based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years. Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) to babies. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding is a derived variable based on questions about length of breastfeeding and the introduction of liquids or solids.

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

  • The percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed their child for six months (or more) increased between the reporting periods 2003 (17.3%) and 2005 (20.3%), but remained stable between the reporting periods 2005 (20.3%) and 2007-2008 (23.1%) and 2007-2008 (23.1%) and 2009-2010 (25.9%).

Duration of exclusive breastfeeding by selected socio-demographic characteristics

The percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed their last child for the recommended six months (or more) varied by selected socio-demographic characteristics.Footnote3

Household income

  • At the national level, significantly fewer mothers in the lowest (23.1%) and third income quintile (23.7%) breastfed their child exclusively for six months (or more) than did mothers in the highest income quintile (33.0%).Footnote4

Highest level of education attained

  • Significantly fewer mothers with less than secondary education (17.3FootnoteE%), secondary graduation (20.4%) and some post-secondary education (19.9%) breastfed their last child exclusively for six months (or more) than did mothers who were post-secondary graduates (29.1%).

Exclusive breastfeeding for six months (or more) by income and education, Canada, 2009-2010

This bar graph shows the percent of mothers who exclusively breastfed for six months or more 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. Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) to babies. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding is a derived variable based on questions about length of breastfeeding and the introduction of liquids or solids.

In Canada overall, 25.9 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
In the lowest income quintile, quintile 1, 23.1 percent of mothers, exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
In income quintile 2, 27.6 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
In income quintile 3, 23.7 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
In income quintile 4, 27.2 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
In the highest income quintile, quintile 5, 33.0 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers with less than secondary graduation, 17.3 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more. This estimate has a coefficient of variation between 16.6 percent and 33.3 percent; use with caution.
Among mothers with secondary graduation, 20.4 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers with some post-secondary education, 19.9 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers with post-secondary graduation, 29.1 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.

Exclusive breastfeeding for six months (or more) by income and education, 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.

Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) to babies. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding is a derived variable based on questions about length of breastfeeding and the introduction of liquids or solids.

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

Cultural/racial background

  • There were no significant differences in the percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed their last child for six months (or more) by cultural/racial background.Footnote5, Footnote6

Aboriginal status

  • Significantly fewer off-reserve Aboriginal mothersFootnote7 breastfed their last child exclusively for six months (or more) (16.6%) than did non-Aboriginal mothers (26.7%).

Immigrant status

  • There were no significant differences in the percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed their last child for six months (or more) by immigrant status.Footnote8

Exclusive breastfeeding for six months (or more) by cultural/racial background, Aboriginal status and immigrant status, Canada, 2009-2010

This bar graph shows the percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed for six months or more 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. Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) to babies. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding is a derived variable based on questions about length of breastfeeding and the introduction of liquids or solids.

In Canada overall, 25.9 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers with an Asian cultural/racial background, 30.2 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers with a Black cultural/racial background, 27.0 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more. This estimate has a coefficient of variation between 16.6 percent and 33.3 percent; use with caution.
Among mothers with a White cultural/racial background, 25.8 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers with a cultural/racial background in the other category, 28.9 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among Aboriginal mothers, 16.6 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among non-Aboriginal mothers, 26.7 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among non-immigrant mothers, 24.7 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among non-recent, greater than or equal to five years, immigrant mothers, 30.6 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among recent, less than 5 years, immigrant mothers, 28.2 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.

Exclusive breastfeeding for six months (or more) by cultural/racial background, Aboriginal status and immigrant status, 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.
Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) to babies. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding is a derived variable based on questions about length of breastfeeding and the introduction of liquids or solids.

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

Mother's Age

  • The percentage of mothers who breastfed exclusively for six months (or more) increased with increasing maternal age.  Significantly fewer mothers aged 15-24 (14.3%) and 25-34 (24.6%) breastfed their last child exclusively for six months (or more) than did mothers aged 35-55 (31.2%).

Marital status

  • Significantly more married/common-law mothers (27.6%) exclusively breastfed their last child six months (or more) than did mothers who were widowed/separated/divorced/single mothers (17.4%).

Area of residence

  • The percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed their last child for six months (or more) was similar between urban and rural areas of residence.Footnote9

Exclusive breastfeeding for six months (or more) by age, marital status and area of residence, Canada, 2009-2010

This bar graph shows the percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed for six months or more 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. Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) to babies. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding is a derived variable based on questions about length of breastfeeding and the introduction of liquids or solids.

In Canada overall, 25.9 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers aged 15 to 24 years, 14.3 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers aged 25 to 34 years, 24.6 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers aged 35 to 55 years, 31.2 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers who were married or in a common-law relationship, 27.6 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers who were widowed, separated, divorced, or single, 17.4 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers living in an urban area, 25.7 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
Among mothers living in a rural area, 26.8 percent exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.

Exclusive breastfeeding for six months (or more) 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.
Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) to babies. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding is a derived variable based on questions about length of breastfeeding and the introduction of liquids or solids.

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

Percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed for six months (or more) by region

In 2009-2010, the percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed their last child for six months (or more) in the Atlantic Provinces and Quebec was significantly lower than the national average. The percentage of mothers exclusively breastfeeding for six months (or more) was significantly higher than the national average in the Prairies, British Columbia and the Territories.

Percentage of mothers who exclusive breastfed for six months (or more) by region, Canada, 2009-2010

This map of Canada shows the percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed for six months or more 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 exclusively breastfed for six months or more in each region is 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. Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) to babies. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding is a derived variable based on questions about length of breastfeeding and the introduction of liquids or solids.

In Canada overall, 25.9 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more.
In British Columbia, 33.9 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more. The percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed for six months or more in British Columbia is above the Canadian average.
In the Prairie region, which includes Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 30.1 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more. The percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed for six months or more in the Prairie region is above the Canadian average.
In Ontario, 26.1 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more. The percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed for six months or more in Ontario is near the Canadian average.
In Quebec, 19.9 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more. The percent of mothers who exclusively breastfed for six months or more in Quebec is below the Canadian average.
In the Atlantic region, which includes New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, 17.7 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more. The percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed for six months or more in the Atlantic region is below the Canadian average.
In the Territories, which include Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, 33.0 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their last baby for six months or more. The percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfed for six months or more in the Territories is above the Canadian average.

Percentage of mothers who exclusive breastfed for six months (or more) by region, Canada, 2009-2010

Based on information provided by females aged 15 to 55 who had a baby in the last 5 years.
Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) to babies. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding is a derived variable based on questions about length of breastfeeding and the introduction of liquids or solids.

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

Reasons for stopping breastfeeding

The top three reasons cited by mothers for stopping breastfeeding their last child wereFootnote10:

  1. not enough breast milk (26.1%);
  2. baby was ready for solid food (18.9%); and,
  3. baby self-weaned (13.1%).

Reasons provided by mothers for stopping breastfeeding their last child, Canada, 2009-2010

This bar graph shows the reason provided by the mother for stopping exclusive breastfeeding of their last child 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. Exclusive breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) to babies.

Not enough breast milk was the reason provided by 26.1 percent of mothers.
Baby was ready for solids was the reason provided by 18.9 percent of mothers.
Baby weaned him or herself was the reason provided by 13.1 percent of mothers.
Returned to work or school was the reason provided by 9.0 percent of mothers.
Inconvenience or fatigue was the reason provided by 7.6 percent of mothers.
Mother planned to stop at this time was the reason provided by 7.5 percent of mothers.
Difficulty with breastfeeding techniques was the reason provided by 7.2 percent of mothers.
Medical condition in the mother was the reason provided by 4.1 percent of mothers.
Medical condition in the baby was the reason provided by 2.3 percent of mothers.
Advice of doctor or health professional was the reason provided by 1.4 percent of mothers. This estimate has a coefficient of variation between 16.6 percent and 33.3 percent; use with caution.
Formula is equally healthy as breast milk was the reason provided by 0.5 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 advice of partner, family or friends, mother wanted to drink alcohol, mother wanted to smoke and other, was the reason provided by 2.4 percent of mothers.

Reasons provided by mothers for stopping exclusive breastfeeding of their last child, Canada, 2009-2010

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

All other reasons – Includes advice of partner/family/friends, mother wanted to drink alcohol, mother wanted to smoke and other.
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

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