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Midwifery. 2019 Apr;71:71-76. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2019.01.005. Epub 2019 Jan 16.

Breastfeeding outcomes among early-term and full-term infants.

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School of Nursing, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. Electronic address:
School of Nursing, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
School of Nursing, University of British Columbia, Kelowna, BC, Canada.



When compared with full-term birth (39 to <42 weeks), early-term birth (37 to <39 weeks) is associated with adverse neonatal outcomes that may impede breastfeeding. Breastfeeding provides numerous benefits to infants and could potentially offset the effects of early-term birth. However, the effect of early-term birth on any and exclusive breastfeeding duration among healthy normal weight infants is unclear.


The objective of this study was to examine the association between early-term birth and breastfeeding duration and exclusivity among healthy term infants.


Two prospective cohorts of 2704 healthy mother-infant pairs were recruited in Hong Kong in 2006-07 and 2011-12. Participants were followed prospectively for 12 months or until they stopped breastfeeding.


Approximately one-third (32.8%) of the infants were born early-term. More than one-half of all participants had stopped breastfeeding by three months postpartum and approximately one-half of the infants were not being exclusively breastfed by two weeks postpartum. There was no significant difference in the odds of any (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.05; 95% 0.85, 1.31) or exclusive (aOR = 0.89; 95% 0.73, 1.08) breastfeeding at one-month postpartum between infants born early-term and at full-term. There was also no significant difference in the duration of any (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] = 1.0; 95% 0.91, 1.10) or exclusive (aHR = 1.0; 95% 0.91, 1.09) breastfeeding between early-term and full-term infants.


In this cohort, early-term birth was not associated with breastfeeding duration and exclusivity. This suggests that, in the absence of neonatal complications, early-term birth itself may not lead to a shorter duration of any or exclusive breastfeeding.


Breastfeeding; Chinese; Gestational age; Hong Kong; Term birth

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