Breast-milk is the most suitable food for any mammal, as it ensures an optimal and hygienic diet and provides antibodies to combat infections. Between 2010 and 2015 only 39% of infants from our species were breastfed until the age of six months, with important variations by geographical areas and states. The majority of lactating infants of up to 6 months (54%) corresponds to Western and Southern Africa Oriental, followed by Southern Asia (46%), while the minority corresponds to Europe (27%), despite a recent return to breastfeeding.
During the 1930s most infants in Spain were breastfed by their mothers, and a minority by wet-nurses, the latter mainly in upper classes or orphanages which were forced to employ wet-nurses to prevent infant death. The switch from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding with mother’s milk spread rapidly in Europe until the 70s/80s when breastfeeding started to increase slowly, starting with more educated women.
Sweden was one of the first countries in Europe to record a fall in breastfeeding, so that the figure for infants exclusively breastfed for 2 months dropped from 85% in 1944 to 35% in 1970; there is also data for the gradual return to maternal breastfeeding, and in 1981 35% of Swedish mothers had prolonged exclusive breastfeeding to 3 months.
The return to maternal breastfeeding in Europe (2010-2015) is clear from the joint data for ECE/CEI countries, where over half of mothers (54%) started early breastfeeding and 27% continued exclusively up to 6 months. At present, almost half of Spanish mothers start early breastfeeding (44%) and 39% continue for 6 months.