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Public Health. 1991 Sep;105(5):357-68.

Hospital and other influences on the uptake and maintenance of breast feeding: the development of infant feeding policy in a district.

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  • 1Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London.


Hospital practices in the post-natal period are now recognised as one of a wide range of influences affecting the success of breast feeding. A study of 48 non-medical maternity unit staff and 250 recently delivered mothers at a District General Hospital was carried out in order to identify obstacles and sources of support in the establishment and maintenance of breast feeding. This study formed part of an evaluation of local policy development which included the appointment of a Baby Feeding Adviser. Eighty-two percent of mothers (95% confidence interval; 87.0-96.4) began breast feeding, and this fell to 57.4% (50.6-64.2) at 6 weeks. A majority of mothers reported that advice was at least partly conflicting, and of those who began breast feeding 92.7% had used supplements within 2 days. In multivariate analysis, factors significantly associated with a lower rate of initial breast feeding were: non-attendance at antenatal classes, Caucasian ethnicity, social class and religious denomination. Social factors were much less important in the maintenance of breast feeding, but mothers who had undergone Caesarian section were more likely to give up breast feeding by 6 weeks. The reported quality of advice and support from the hospital and community were not associated with the maintenance of breast feeding. Many of the maternity unit midwifery staff reported inadequate time for discussion of feeding with mothers. Although two-thirds of the staff felt that there should be an infant feeding policy or were not sure, most of those favouring a policy felt that it should not actively promote breast feeding. Their main reason for this view was the fear of inducing guilt in bottle-feeding mothers. The social and service-related factors associated with the initiation and maintenance of breast feeding may be useful for targeting additional support for some mothers. The ambivalence and concerns among maternity unit midwifery staff about promoting breast feeding must be addressed if successful policy implementation is to be achieved. Plans for implementing change and evaluation are described.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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