Public Health Nutrition

HOT TOPIC – Breastfeeding

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

Roslyn C Tarranta1, Katherine M Youngera1, Margaret Sheridan-Pereiraa2, Martin J Whitea2 and John M Kearneya1 c1

a1 School of Biological Sciences, Dublin Institute of Technology, Kevin Street, Dublin 8, Republic of Ireland

a2 Department of Paediatrics, The Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Dublin 8, Republic of Ireland


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 ≥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.

(Received March 04 2009)

(Accepted August 06 2009)

(Online publication September 17 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email