Determinants of initiation and exclusivity of breastfeeding in Al Hassa, Saudi Arabia

Breastfeed Med. 2011 Apr;6(2):59-68. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2010.0018. Epub 2010 Oct 29.


Aims: The objectives of this cross-sectional study were to define the possible determinants of early initiation and exclusivity of breastfeeding and to assess knowledge towards breastfeeding among Saudi mothers in Al Hassa, Saudi Arabia.

Subjects and methods: Six hundred forty-one Saudi mothers with singleton infants approximately 24 months old attending well-baby clinics at four urban and six rural primary health care centers were selected through the multistage sampling method. Eligible mothers were invited to a personal interview using pretested questionnaires to gather data regarding sociodemographics, health-related variables, breastfeeding initiation, and current breastfeeding practices and to assess mothers' knowledge about breastfeeding.

Results: Breastfeeding was initiated by 77.8% of mothers within the first 24 hours of childbirth. Exclusive breastfeeding at birth was reported in 76.1%, which declined to 32.9% and 12.2% at the age of 2 and 6 months, respectively. Increased maternal age, multiparity (three or more children), and vaginal delivery were significant positive predictors for early breastfeeding initiation as revealed by stepwise logistic forward regression. Rural, less-educated, low-income multiparous mothers were more likely to exclusively breastfed their infants as revealed by multivariate logistic regression. Irrespective of educational status, surveyed mothers demonstrated several misconceptions towards breastfeeding. Furthermore, early initiations and exclusivity were significantly influenced by sociodemographics, especially maternal educational and employment status.

Conclusions: The rate of initiation and exclusivity of breastfeeding in Al Hassa is far below the World Health Organization recommendations.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Maternal Age
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Natural Childbirth
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Saudi Arabia / epidemiology
  • Social Environment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires