The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding to age 6 months. Although breastfeeding rates in the United States have been increasing over time, further improvements are needed to meet Healthy People 2020 targets.Research aim:
This study examined predictors of breastfeeding initiation and maintenance among a population of insured pregnant women.Methods:
Participants were 1,149 pregnant women enrolled in the Pregnancy and Influenza Project in two Kaiser Permanente regions in 2010-2011. Data were collected through interviews at enrollment and 1 month and 6 months postpartum and through participants’ electronic medical records.Results:
Nearly all (99%) women reported initiating breastfeeding. Rates of exclusive breastfeeding were 70% and 54% at 1 month and 6 months, respectively; an additional 22% and 23% of women reported supplementing breastfeeding with formula. Of the women who supplemented, the mean (SD) infant age at formula introduction was 53 (62) days. Of those who had stopped breastfeeding, the mean (SD) infant age at cessation was 85 (59) days. Higher maternal education level, better maternal self-rated health, prenatal folic acid use, absence of chronic medical conditions, and infant full-term birth were significantly associated with breastfeeding maintenance.Conclusion:
Although rates of breastfeeding in this population were higher than national rates, a significant number of women stopped breastfeeding or introduced formula earlier than recommended. Two to 3 months postpartum may be a critical period warranting additional encouragement or intervention by healthcare providers. Mothers’ education attainment, maternal health factors, and gestational age at delivery may predict likelihood of breastfeeding maintenance.