The influence of infant feeding attitudes on breastfeeding duration: Evidence from a cohort study in rural Western Australia
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Background - Breast milk is the optimal source of nutrition for infants in the first six months of life. Promoting and protecting breastfeeding is reflected in public health policy across the globe, but breastfeeding rates in both developing and industrialised countries continue to demonstrate that few mothers meet these recommendations. In addition to sociodemographic factors such as age, education and income, modifiable factors such as maternal infant feeding attitudes have been shown to influence breastfeeding duration. The objective of this paper was to describe the influence of infant feeding attitudes on breastfeeding duration in rural Western Australia. Methods - A cohort of 427 women and their infants were recruited from hospitals in rural Western Australia and followed for a period of 12 months. Information about feeding methods was gathered in hospital and at a further seven follow-up contacts. Infant feeding attitude was measured using the Iowa Infant Feeding Attitude Scale (IIFAS), and a score of > 65 was considered positive towards breastfeeding. Results - Mothers with an IIFAS score of > 65 were approximately twice as likely to be exclusively breastfeeding at six months, and breastfeeding at any intensity to 12 months. The median duration of exclusive breastfeeding for mothers with an IIFAS score of > 65 was 16 weeks (95 % CI 13.5, 18.5) compared with 5 weeks for those with a score < 65 (95 % CI 3.2, 6.8) (p < 0.0001). The median duration of any breastfeeding to 12 months was more than twice as long for mothers with an IIFAS score > 65 (48 vs. 22 weeks, p < 0.001). Conclusions -Women in this rural cohort who had a more positive attitude towards breastfeeding had a longer duration of both exclusive breastfeeding to six months and any breastfeeding to 12 months. Further research examining the breastfeeding attitudes of specific subgroups such as men, grandparents and adolescents in rural areas will contribute to the evidence base and help to ensure that breastfeeding is seen as the normal method of infant feeding.
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