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

  • Roslyn C Tarrant (a1), Katherine M Younger (a1), Margaret Sheridan-Pereira (a2), Martin J White (a2) and John M Kearney (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 17 September 2009

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.


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.


Participants were recruited from antenatal clinics in the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Dublin.


In all, 401 Irish-national and forty-nine non-Irish-national mothers met the criteria for inclusion in the present study.


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.


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.

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