Background: Breastfeeding is associated with multiple domains of health for both mothers and children. Nevertheless, breastfeeding initiation is low within certain developed countries. Furthermore, comparative studies of initiation rates using harmonised data across multiple regions is scarce.
Objective: The aim of the present study was to investigate and compare individual-level determinants of breastfeeding initiation using two French-speaking cohorts.
Methods: Participants included ~ 3,900 mothers enrolled in two cohort studies in Canada and France. Interviews, questionnaires, and medical records were utilised to collect information on maternal, family, and medical factors associated with breastfeeding initiation.
Results: Rates of breastfeeding initiation were similar across cohorts, slightly above 70%. Women in both Canada and France who had higher levels of maternal education, were born outside of their respective countries and who did not smoke during pregnancy were more likely to initiate breastfeeding with the cohort infant. Notably, cohort effects of maternal education at the university level were found, whereby having 'some university' was not statistically significant for mothers in France. Further, younger mothers in Canada, who delivered by caesarean section and who had previous children, had reduced odds of breastfeeding initiation. These results were not found for mothers in France.
Conclusions and implications for practice: While some similar determinants were observed, programming efforts to increase breastfeeding initiation should be tailored to the characteristics of specific geographical regions which may be heavily impacted by the social, cultural and political climate of the region, in addition to individual and family level factors.