The prevalence and determinants of breast-feeding initiation and duration in a sample of women in Ireland

Public Health Nutr. 2010 Jun;13(6):760-70. doi: 10.1017/S1368980009991522. Epub 2009 Sep 17.


Objective: To assess breast-feeding initiation and prevalence from birth to 6 months in a sample of mothers in Dublin, and to determine the factors associated with breast-feeding initiation and 'any' breast-feeding at 6 weeks in a sample of Irish-national mothers.

Design: This prospective cross-sectional study involved the recruitment of women during the antenatal period, with subsequent follow-up of mothers who delivered healthy, term singleton infants, at 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum.

Setting: Participants were recruited from antenatal clinics in the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Dublin.

Subjects: In all, 401 Irish-national and forty-nine non-Irish-national mothers met the criteria for inclusion in the present study.

Results: Breast-feeding initiation rates of the Irish-national and non-Irish-nationals were 47% and 79.6%, respectively. Factors that were significantly (P = 0.000) associated with both breast-feeding initiation and 'any' breast-feeding at 6 weeks included mothers who were >or=35 years, educated to third level, reported positive postnatal encouragement to breast-feed from their partners and had a positive antenatal intention to breast-feed. The maternal negative perception that breast-feeding is an embarrassing way to feed an infant was demonstrated as a major barrier to initiation.

Conclusions: Breast-feeding initiation and prevalence rates of the Irish-national population remain low and lag considerably behind national and international targets. Inclusion of the partner in breast-feeding promotional initiatives during the antenatal period may be crucial to increase breast-feeding rates in Ireland. Public health campaigns that focus on increasing the social acceptability of breast-feeding may prove effective in addressing this cultural barrier.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Breast Feeding / epidemiology*
  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Ireland
  • Mothers / education
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Patient Education as Topic / organization & administration*
  • Patient-Centered Care / organization & administration
  • Postpartum Period
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Support
  • Time Factors