Changes in the prevalence of breast feeding in preterm infants discharged from neonatal units: a register study over 10 years

BMJ Open. 2016 Dec 13;6(12):e012900. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012900.


Objective: There are indications that the prevalence of exclusively breastfed preterm infants is decreasing in Sweden. The objective was to investigate trends in exclusive breast feeding at discharge from Swedish neonatal units and associated factors in preterm infants.

Design, setting and participants: This is a register study with data from the Swedish Neonatal Quality Register. Data from 29 445 preterm infants (gestational age (GA) <37 weeks) who were born during the period 2004-2013 were retrieved. Data included maternal, perinatal and neonatal characteristics. Data were analysed for the whole population as well as for 3 GA groups.

Results: From 2004 to 2013, the prevalence of exclusive breast feeding decreased, in extremely preterm (GA 22-27 weeks) from 55% to 16%, in very preterm (GA 28-31 weeks) from 41% to 34% and in moderately preterm infants (GA 32-36 weeks) from 64% to 49%. The decline was statistically significant (p<0.001) in all 3 GA groups. This decline remained significant when adjustments were made for factors negatively associated with exclusive breast feeding and which became more prevalent during the study period, that is, small for GA (all groups) and maternal mental illness (very preterm and moderately preterm infants).

Conclusions: In the past 10 years, Sweden has experienced a lower rate of exclusive breast feeding in preterm infants, especially in extremely preterm infants. The factors analysed in this study explain only a small proportion of this decline. The decline in exclusive breast feeding at discharge from neonatal units raises concern and present challenges to the units to support and promote breast feeding.


Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Breast Feeding / trends*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Extremely Premature / growth & development*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age / growth & development*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Registries
  • Sweden / epidemiology