Parental attitudes toward breastfeeding: their association with feeding outcome at hospital discharge

Birth. 2004 Jun;31(2):125-31. doi: 10.1111/j.0730-7659.2004.00290.x.


Background: A woman chooses to breastfeed for many reasons. Recent research, however, suggests that parental attitudes toward breastfeeding are stronger predictors of infant feeding choice than commonly cited sociodemographic factors. The objective of the current study was to compare the infant feeding attitudes of expectant couples, and to determine to what degree their individual attitudes during early pregnancy were predictive of the method of infant feeding at discharge from hospital.

Methods: A convenience sample of pregnant women (gestational age 8-12 weeks), who were attending maternity clinics in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2000, completed the 17-item Iowa Infant Feeding Attitude Scale (IIFAS), together with their partners.

Results: The IIFAS was completed by 108 expectant couples. At discharge from hospital 49.1 percent of women were exclusively breastfeeding, and 50.9 percent were exclusively formula-feeding. A woman's total infant feeding attitude score was significantly correlated with her partner's score(r = 0.67, p < 0.001). There was no difference in the infant feeding attitudes of formula-feeding couples(p = 0.987), but breastfeeding women tended to be more supportive of breastfeeding than their partners(p = 0.022). Maternal, but not paternal, infant feeding attitude was a significant predictor of the choice of feeding method (OR = 1.16 95% CI = 1.09-1.24).

Conclusions: Infant feeding attitudes tended to be shared by expectant couples. Maternal infant feeding attitude was a better predictor of feeding choice than were demographic factors. Paternal attitudes were not found to be independently associated with feeding choice. Identification of women with neutral infant feeding attitudes using the IIFAS may be an effective way of targeting interventions at those women who are most likely to be receptive to such programs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Bottle Feeding / psychology
  • Bottle Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Breast Feeding / psychology
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patient Discharge* / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires