Mother's milk: What determines breastfeeding rates in the UK?

January 26, 2010

Ethnicity and number of previous births are factors that can predict the length of time a woman will breastfeed her child. A new study published in the open access journal BMC Pediatrics has examined the effects of maternal factors and hospital infant-feeding practices on breastfeeding.

This is particularly important since the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates worldwide. The UK Government recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life based on World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. Yet, in 2000, the UK ranked the second lowest among 32 countries in a WHO report, with a breastfeeding rate at 6 months of just 21%. Arpana Verma, Gabriel Agboado and colleagues from The University of Manchester and East Lancashire Primary Care Trust set out to determine the reasons for this.

The group examined the effects of maternal socio-demographic factors, maternal obstetric factors, and hospital feeding practices on breastfeeding discontinuation in mothers supported by a peer-support programme.

The results showed that ethnic group, mothers who had already given birth more than once, and hospital infant-feeding practices were the most important factors associated with length of breastfeeding period. However, the study found no significant associations between discontinuing breastfeeding among these mothers supported by the peer-support programme and other recognized factors previously thought to be connected, such as marital status, mode of delivery, time taken to initiate breastfeeding after birth and socio-economic deprivation.

The study revealed that about 50% of the mothers supported breastfed for more than 27 weeks. White mothers were 69% more likely to stop breastfeeding compared with non-White mothers; they also breastfed for shorter durations compared with mothers from other ethnic groups.

Dr Gabriel Agboado said, "The results suggest that infant feeding practices associated with maternal ethnicity and previous experience of having children may be more difficult to influence by peer support interventions. Peer support programs, particularly those in multi-ethnic settings, will need to identify the needs of their various client groups in order to appropriately support them to breastfeed longer".
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Notes to Editors

1. Factors associated with breastfeeding cessation in nursing mothers in a peer support programme in Eastern Lancashire
Gabriel Agboado, Elaine Michel, Elaine Jackson and Arpana Verma
BMC Pediatrics (in press)

During embargo, article available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/1629835677236266_article.pdf?random=238735

After the embargo, article available at journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcpediatr/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication

2. The study used information on mothers supported by Little Angles, a social organization that provides peer-support for nursing mothers in order to help them breastfeed longer. This peer-support programme was a collaborative project based on the WHO Ten Steps for Successful Breastfeeding with the Royal Blackburn Hospital, in Lancashire. The effectiveness of peer support programmes in improving breastfeeding outcomes had already been established.

3. BMC Pediatrics is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in all aspects of health care in neonates, children and adolescents, as well as related molecular genetics, pathophysiology, and epidemiology. BMC Pediatrics (ISSN 1471-2431) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, CAS, EMBASE, Scopus, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar.

4. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

BioMed Central

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