What influences the uptake and early cessation of breast feeding?Midwifery 1998; 14(4):242-7M
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.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
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.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE
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.