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Midwifery. 1998 Dec;14(4):242-7.

What influences the uptake and early cessation of breast feeding?

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  • 1Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, Medical School, University of Birmingham, UK.



To examine obstetric, maternal and social factors associated with the uptake and early cessation of breast feeding and women's reasons for altering from breast to bottle feeding.


Women who responded to a postal questionnaire on long-term postpartum health were contacted and asked to participate in a home-based interview. In addition to health problems, the interview obtained information on baby feeding and a number of social factors. Women were also asked to complete the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Obstetric and maternal data were obtained from maternity records.


Deliveries from a large maternity hospital in Birmingham.


906 women were interviewed at a mean of 45 weeks after delivery.


63% of the women said they had breast fed, but 40% of these stopped within three months of delivery. Many of the women gave physical problems with lactation as reasons for stopping. The factors found to be predictors of early cessation were: return to work within three months of birth; regular childcare support from other female relatives, and a high EPDS score. Non-initiation of breast feeding was predicted by a different set of factors: multiparity; general anaesthetic (GA); and unmarried status.


Despite evidence of the benefits of breast feeding, this remains an unacceptable long-term option for many women, and for over one-third it is never attempted. Factors within the woman's social environment were found to influence early cessation. Women who had a GA during or immediately following labour and delivery were less likely to initiate breast feeding.


If breast-feeding incidence and duration are to increase, more attention should be paid to establishing early, successful breast feeding and countering the negative influences of factors within the social environment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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