Social Support and Exclusive Breast feeding among Canadian Women

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The World Health Organization recommendation for exclusive breast feeding for 6 months has been endorsed by Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada as of 2012. This study examines whether social support is associated with exclusive breast feeding up to 6 months among Canadian mothers.


We utilised data from the Canadian Community Health Survey and limited our sample to mothers who gave birth in the 5 years prior to the 2009–2010 survey (n = 2133). Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine the relationship between exclusive breast feeding and four dimensions of social support: (i) tangible, (ii) affectionate, (iii) positive social interaction, and (iv) emotional and informational, based on the Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Scale. Absolute and relative differences in the probability of breast feeding exclusively and their 95% confidence intervals were calculated.


In adjusted models, differences in the probability of exclusive breast feeding for 6 months were not different among women with high vs. low social support. The association between social support and breastfeeding exclusively was modified by education level, with significantly higher probability of breast feeding exclusively among women with lower education and high vs. low levels of tangible and affectionate support.


Among women with education below a high school level, high tangible and affectionate support significantly increased probability of exclusive breast feeding for 6 months in this study. Efforts to encourage exclusive breast feeding need to address social support for mothers, especially those with lower education.

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