Influence of 1991-1995 war on breast-feeding in Croatia: questionnaire study

Croat Med J. 2000 Jun;41(2):186-90.


Aim: To investigate the influence of 1991-1995 war on the prevalence, duration, and practice of breast-feeding Croatian children up to 5 years of age.

Method: In 1996, interviews were conducted in households with children up to 2 years of age (757 children) and 2-5 years of age (1,180 children). Data for war-free areas, war-affected areas, and areas liberated after several years of occupation were analyzed separately.

Results: In 1996, 94.6% of mothers started breast-feeding, which lasted for an average of 3.4+/-2.9 months. The proportion of mothers who started breast-feeding did not vary with respect to either war-related or geographic areas of the country. Breast-feeding was significantly longer in war-free than in war-affected areas (3.7+/-3.1 vs. 2.7+/-2.1 months, respectively; p=0.015). The duration of breast-feeding in Croatia's geographic regions, Istria, Hrvatsko Primorje, and Gorski Kotar, was significantly longer than in Slavonia (3.9+/-3.4 vs. 3.4+/-3.0, respectively; p=0.037). On the country level, 49.4% of babies were fed on demand and 43.3% according to a daily schedule. The percent of children who were not breast-fed was significantly higher (p=0. 002) in the older age group (2-5 years of age, 9.3%) than in the younger age group (up to 2 years of age, 5.4%).

Conclusions: The war decreased the prevalence and duration of breast-feeding, which might be related to regular humanitarian donations of infant food and mother's milk substitutes, especially in the war-affected areas. UNICEF breast-feeding campaign, which started in 1993, appeared to be effective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Croatia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Warfare*