Infant feeding practices and breastfeeding duration in Japan: A review
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The Japanese health system places great emphasis on healthy development. However, the prevalence of Exclusive Breastfeeding at one month postpartum between 1980 and 2005 has remained unchanged, fluctuating between 42% and 49%. At the same time, the Any Breastfeeding prevalence has gradually increased from about 80% to 95%. In 2010, the latest national breastfeeding report showed that ‘exclusive’ and ‘any’ breastfeeding rates have improved. However, as the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of breastfeeding practices was not used in this study or in other national surveys, it is difficult to interpret these latest results. While the Japanese government has launched several promotion projects, there have been few studies and reviews of risk factors that influence breastfeeding duration. The objectives of this review were to summarise the factors that have influenced the duration of breastfeeding in Japan to provide information relevant to breastfeeding promotion programs. A search of electronic databases in Japanese and English was undertaken up to 2011. The inclusion criteria for this review were studies that focused on infant feeding practices and targeted Japanese mothers, fathers, or health professionals, but excluded mothers’ friends and peer groups.In total, 12 articles were selected for the final analysis. Smoking status, low birth weight of infants and maternal perceptions of insufficient breast milk supply were negative influences on breastfeeding duration, while support from husbands/partners is associated with continued breastfeeding. Some factors that have been found to be associated with breastfeeding in other countries, including maternal age, family income, maternal educational levels, and living with grandparents of infants have not been confirmed in Japan. While the national breastfeeding rates were higher than other countries of similar health status, inconsistent knowledge of breastfeeding benefits and inappropriate hospital practices remain in Japan may be associated with increased the use of infant formula and reduced breastfeeding duration. Most of the studies reviewed were cross-sectional in design, with only a limited number of cohort studies. Also many published studies used small sample sizes. Cohort studies of infant feeding practices with larger sample sizes are required to monitor trends in rates and risk factors for breastfeeding outcomes.
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