A Western Australian Survey of Breastfeeding Initiation, Prevalence and Early Cessation Patterns
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Objective: This paper reports on current initiation and prevalence rates, in Western Australia, differentiating ‘any’ breastfeeding with ‘exclusive’ breastfeeding whilst exploring patterns and reasons for stopping breastfeeding. The results presented are part of a larger study examining women’s perceptions of care and wellbeing in the early postnatal period. Methods: A cross sectional survey was used to examine infant feeding practices during the hospital stay and at 9 weeks post birth from Western Australian women with a registered live birth between February and June 2006. Results: Data obtained from 2,669 women revealed a 93% (n = 2,472) initiation rate of any breastfeeding. More multiparous women (73.5%) were exclusively breastfeeding in hospital compared to primiparous women (65.2%), which decreased to 57.1 and 49.2%, respectively at 9 weeks. Of those who had ceased by 9 weeks, more multiparous women (71.1%) ceased before 3 weeks. Reasons cited for ceasing in order of frequency were insufficient milk supply, infant related reasons, pain and discomfort and emotional reasons. Younger maternal age, primiparous women, lower maternal education levels, offering a combination of breast milk and formula in hospital and caesarean birth were significant independent predictors of early cessation. Conclusions: Although initiation rates including “any” breast milk are meeting NHMRC dietary guidelines of 90%, the 60% target of exclusive breastfeeding is not being achieved for 3 months or in fact at 9 weeks. Targeted support for at risk groups such as younger, less well-educated, primiparous women must continue. Evidence based policies to protect breastfeeding must address the practice of offering formula to breastfed infants in hospital and the impact of increasing interventions such as caesarean births.
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