Factors Associated with Recurrent Infant Feeding Practices in Subsequent Births: A Population-Based Longitudinal Study

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Previous breastfeeding experience has been associated with subsequent infant feeding practices. However, few longitudinal studies have investigated formula-only feeding patterns or the full range of potentially associated characteristics.


This study aimed to determine the recurrence of infant feeding practices and maternal, birthing, and infant characteristics associated with recurrent formula-only feeding and changes between exclusive breastfeeding and formula-only feeding across subsequent births.


We conducted a population-based record-linkage study of 317 027 mothers, with a term singleton live-birth in 2007-2011, New South Wales, Australia. Infant feeding patterns were described using sequential birth pairs. For mothers with a first and second birth, robust Poisson regression was used to investigate the association between maternal, birthing, and infant characteristics and infant feeding patterns. Combined relative risks (RRs) were calculated for selected maternal characteristics.


Across 69 994 sequential birth pairs, the recurrence rate of formula-only feeding was 71%, and 92% for exclusive breastfeeding. Maternal characteristics < 25 years old, being Australian born or single, smoking during pregnancy, and living in lower socioeconomic areas were most strongly associated with repeat formula-only feeding (RR, 22.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 18.6-26.3), changing from exclusive breastfeeding to formula-only feeding (RR, 9.0; 95% CI, 7.4-10.7), and being less likely to change from formula-only feeding to exclusive breastfeeding (RR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.38-0.59).


Infant feeding practices were strongly recurrent, highlighting the importance of successful breastfeeding for first-time mothers. Additional support for young mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds accounting for infant feeding history, experiences, and common barriers could improve recurrent exclusive breastfeeding and positively affect infant and maternal health.

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