Are Starting and Continuing Breastfeeding Related to Educational Background? The Generation R Study

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OBJECTIVE. To assess the effect of a woman's educational level on starting and continuing breastfeeding and to assess the role of sociodemographic, lifestyle-related, psychosocial, and birth characteristics in this association. METHODS. We used the data of 2914 participants in a population-based prospective cohort study. Information on educational level, breastfeeding, sociodemographic ( maternal age, single parenthood, parity, job status), lifestyle-related (BMI, smoking, alcohol use), psychosocial (whether the pregnancy was planned, stress), and birth (gestational age, birth weight, cesarean delivery, place and type of delivery) characteristics were obtained between pregnancy and 12 months postpartum. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals of starting and continuing breastfeeding for educational level were obtained by logistic regression, adjusted for each group of covariates and for all covariates simultaneously. RESULTS. Of 1031 highest-educated mothers, 985 (95.5%) started breastfeeding; the percentage was 73.1% (255 of 349) in the lowest-educated mothers. At 6 months, 39.3% (405 of 1031) of highest-educated mothers and 15.2% (53 of 349) of lowest-educated mothers were still breastfeeding. Educationally related differences were present in starting breastfeeding and the continuation of breastfeeding until 2 months but not in breastfeeding continuation between 2 and 6 months. Lifestyle-related and birth characteristics attenuated the association between educational level and breastfeeding, but the association was hardly affected by sociodemographic and psychosocial characteristics. CONCLUSIONS. Decisions to breastfeed were underlain by differences in educational background. The underlying pathways require further research. For the time being, interventions on promoting breastfeeding should start early in pregnancy and should increase their focus on low-educated women. Pediatrics 2009; 123: e1017-e1027
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)E1017-E1027
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Research programs

  • EMC MGC-02-52-01-A
  • EMC MM-04-54-08-A
  • EMC NIHES-01-64-02
  • EMC NIHES-02-65-02

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