Aim: To assess the prevalence of breastfeeding in the first 6 months post partum, and to elicit the reasons for stopping breastfeeding.
Methods: A longitudinal cohort study of 4286 New Zealand infants born between 2 July 1990 and 30 June 1991. Mothers were asked at 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months whether they were breastfeeding or had ever breastfed their babies. If they had breastfed their babies but had now stopped breastfeeding, they were asked how old the baby was when they stopped and the reasons for stopping.
Results: Feeding data was available on 3929 of the 4286 infants enrolled in the study. At birth 93.8% (n = 3685) infants were exclusively breastfed. No infants were partially breastfed. At 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months post partum, the breastfeeding rates were 79.5% (68.4% exclusive), 71.3% (47.6% exclusive), and 56% (2.5% exclusive), respectively. The most common reason for stopping breastfeeding was perceived inadequate supply of breast milk (29%, 29% and 33% of mothers who stopped between birth to 6 weeks, 6 weeks to 3 months and 3 months to 6 months, respectively), apart from Pacific Island mothers, whose main reason for stopping breastfeeding between six weeks and three months post partum was returning to work or study (38% of mothers who stopped).
Conclusions: The decline in breastfeeding rates with length of time post partum could be reduced with education of breastfeeding mothers and health professionals about the management of breastfeeding problems and early infant behaviour and growth. Support by employers or education facilities for breastfeeding mothers who are working or studying may help to maintain breastfeeding rates.