Mothers in the UK are breastfeeding their children at the lowest rate in the world, according to an international study by The Lancet.
New data shows the practice, which is good for a baby's health, is only being used by one in 200 women, or 0.5 per cent, after one year. This is far below other countries, with 23 per cent in Germany, 56 per cent in Brazil and 99 per cent in Senegal.
The Lancet found a sudden drop in the UK, where 81 per cent of mothers tried breastfeeding at some point, but only 34 per cent were still breastfeeding at six months and 0.5 per cent at 12 months.
"There is a widespread misconception that the benefits of breastfeeding only relate to poor countries," said Professor Cesar Victora, one of the report's authors, from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil. "Nothing could be further from the truth: our work clearly shows that breastfeeding saves lives and money in all countries, rich and poor alike."
Women in the UK are advised by health experts to feed their baby breast milk for more than six months, though no advice is given on when to stop breastfeeding.
In poor countries, near-universal breastfeeding could save 800,000 children's lives each year, preventing half of all diarrhoea cases and a third of respiratory infections, said The Lancet.
Sarah Redshaw, from the BABYCentre website, said: "Generally mums are aware that breastfeeding is best for their baby but often don't get the right support if they encounter problems in the early weeks - which many do. As a result, significant numbers give up on breastfeeding."