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Breast-feeding in a UK urban context: Who breast-feeds, for how long and does it matter?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Margaret Wright, Dr Kathryn Parkinson


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Objective: To investigate what factors relate most strongly to breast-feeding duration in order to successfully support breast-feeding mothers. Design: Prospective birth cohort study using questionnaires, routinely collected weights and health check at age 13 months. Setting: Gateshead, UK. Subjects: Parents of 923 term infants born in a defined geographical area and recruited shortly after birth, 50% of whom were breast-feeding initially. Results: Only 225 (24%) infants were still breast-fed at 6 weeks, although 136 (15%) continued beyond 4 months. Infants in the most affluent quintile were three times more likely to be initially breast-fed (P < 0.001) and five times more likely to still be feeding at 4 months (P = 0.001) compared with infants in the most deprived quintile. A third of breast-fed infants were given supplementary feeds in the maternity unit and this was associated with a 10-fold increase in odds of giving up breast-feeding by discharge (P = 0.001). Frequent feeding was reported as a reason for giving up in 70% of mothers at 6 weeks and 55% at 4 months. Those infants who stopped breast-feeding earliest showed the most rapid weight gain and were tallest at age 13 months. Non-breast-fed infants had 50% more family doctor contacts up to age 4 months (P = 0.005). Conclusions: Initiation of breast-feeding in urban Britain remains strongly determined by socio-economic background and early cessation seems to be related to frequent feeding and rapid growth as well as a continuing failure to eradicate health practices that undermine breast-feeding. Those infants not receiving breast milk suffered increased morbidity, but the apparent association between breast-feeding duration and growth probably reflects reverse causation. © The Authors 2006.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wright CM, Parkinson K, Scott J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Public Health Nutrition

Year: 2006

Volume: 9

Issue: 6

Pages: 686-691

Print publication date: 01/01/2006

ISSN (print): 1368-9800

ISSN (electronic): 1475-2727

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1079/PHN2005888

PubMed id: 16925872


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