The validity and reliability of maternal recall of breastfeeding practice

Nutr Rev. 2005 Apr;63(4):103-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2005.tb00128.x.


In large epidemiologic studies, information on breastfeeding practice is often collected from maternal recall through interviews, but there is concern about the accuracy of the data, especially when mothers are asked to recall their practices from many years earlier. This review examines the validity and reliability of maternal recall of breastfeeding history using 11 studies published between 1966 and 2003 in English with a sample of 10 or more. Validity is the degree to which recall compares with a validation standard or reference, and reliability refers to the degree to which the breastfeeding practices obtained by recall are repeatable over time. The existing studies suggest that maternal recall is a valid and reliable estimate of breastfeeding initiation and duration, especially when the duration of breastfeeding is recalled after a short period (< or = 3 years). Validity and reliability of maternal recall for the age at introduction of food and fluids other than breast milk are less satisfactory. Further and more extensive studies on maternal recall of breastfeeding history and ways to improve such recall are warranted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires