Objective: Although bottle feeding is the main infant feeding mode in most societies, human milk is considered the most appropriate food for human infants. The aim of this study is to gather statistics regarding breast feeding prevalence, influencing factors for engaging in, and demographic characteristics of breast feeding in general population.
Methods: This is a random cross-sectional questionnaire study conducted in Al Kharj Health Centre, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia between the period of November 2000 through to February 2001. Mothers of childbearing age with at least one child were interviewed by trained interviewers. The sample was divided into 3 groups according to the mode of feeding: exclusive breast feeding, partial breast feeding, which included some breast feeding and some bottle feeding and exclusive bottle feeding. A statistical analysis was performed using statistical package for social sciences software package, (version 10.0). The response data were subjected to chi-square test, and Spearman's correlation analyses.
Results: Seven hundred and four mothers were interviewed. The mean age of mothers, fathers, and most recently born child were 30-years, 37-years, and 15.7-months. Partial breast feeding was the most common mode of infant feeding in this sample, with 66.1% of mothers engaging in this mode (p<0.00001). Exclusive breast feeding was the next most common, with 27.3% of mothers engaging in this mode. Finally, exclusive bottle feeding was the least common (6.7%). Four main demographic factors significantly related to the exclusive mode of breast feeding were husbands' educational level, advice received regarding breast feeding, whether or not a milk sample given at discharge from hospital, and whether or not contraception used. A positive significant correlation was found between breast feeding and mother's age, father's age, age of most recently born child, parity, number of children previously breast fed, and duration of previous breast feeding.
Conclusion: Partial breast feeding is the dominant mode of feeding in our community, although the influencing factors and behavioral factors are similar in breast feeding and partial breast feeding groups. The most significant factors affecting the outcome of breast feeding are modifiable by health education.