The relative importance of social class and maternal education for breast-feeding initiation

Public Health Nutr. 2009 Dec;12(12):2285-92. doi: 10.1017/S1368980009004947. Epub 2009 Feb 26.


Objective: To examine changes in breast-feeding take-up rates among young children in Scotland and to assess whether maternal education or occupation-based social class is a stronger and better predictor of breast-feeding take-up.

Design: Binary logistic regression models were developed from the first sweep of the Growing Up in Scotland longitudinal survey, for the two cohorts of children.

Setting: A national representative survey for Scotland.

Subjects: A baby cohort of 5012 singletons born over a 12-month period between June 2004 and May 2005, and a toddler cohort of 2732 singletons born over a 12-month period between June 2002 and May 2003.

Results: Mothers from more privileged social classes and those with more educational qualifications resulted as more likely to breast-feed. However, maternal education was a better and more robust predictor of breast-feeding take-up compared with social class. There were no significant differences in breast-feeding take-up between the two cohorts and only minor differences between mothers aged 20-29 years and those who stated an intention to bottle-feed prior to birth.

Conclusions: The study suggests that the importance of maternal education in influencing breast-feeding has been somewhat overlooked in research based in more developed countries. The results indicate that, compared with occupation-related social class, maternal education is a more informative, accurate and useful lens through which to understand and explain patterns of breast-feeding take-up.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / epidemiology
  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Social Class*
  • Young Adult