Epidemiology of breastfeeding in Italy

Acta Paediatr Suppl. 1999 Aug;88(430):19-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.1999.tb01296.x.


To evaluate the rates of initiation and duration of breastfeeding in the major geographical areas of Italy, 1601 mothers randomly selected as representative of the November 1995 deliveries in all 20 regional districts underwent interviews within 1 mo after delivery. A cross-sectional telephone scanner-ready questionnaire was administered by trained personnel. Mothers who started breastfeeding were interviewed again at 3, 6, 9 and 12 mo after delivery. The results indicate that 85.3% mothers initiated breastfeeding, with significant geographical differences (rate ranging from 75.8% in the islands to 90.8% in the north-east; p < 0.0001). The overall breastfeeding prevalence considering all 1601 mothers decreased steadily to 41.8% at 3 mo and 19.4% at 6 mo, and was even lower when considering only exclusive/predominant breastfeeding (37.3% and 8.1%, respectively). The duration of breastfeeding was shorter in the islands than in other areas, particularly the north-east (p = 0.001). Although the rate of breastfeeding initiation is fairly high in Italy, the rapid decrease in breastfeeding practice throughout the first 6 mo requires strategies for improvement. The differences between the continental areas and the islands should be considered in programming intervention plans.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sampling Studies
  • Software
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Time Factors