OBJECTIVE. To report the duration of breastfeeding among a population of Australian women and to identify factors that are associated with the duration of full breastfeeding to 6 months and any breastfeeding to 12 months.
METHODS. Participants were 587 women who were recruited from 2 maternity hospitals in Perth and completed a baseline questionnaire just before or shortly after discharge from the hospital. Women were followed up by telephone interview at 4, 10, 16, 22, 32, 40, and 52 weeks postpartum. Data collected included sociodemographic, biomedical, hospital-related, and psychosocial factors associated with the initiation and the duration of breastfeeding. Cox's proportional hazards model was used to identify factors that were associated with the risk for discontinuing full breastfeeding before 6 months and any breastfeeding before 12 months.
RESULTS. At 6 months of age, fewer than one half of infants were receiving any breast milk (45.9%), and only 12% were being fully breastfed. By 12 months, only 19.2% of infants were still receiving any breast milk. Breastfeeding duration was independently, positively associated with maternal infant feeding attitudes and negatively associated with breastfeeding difficulties in the first 4 weeks, maternal smoking, introduction of a pacifier, and early return to work.
CONCLUSIONS. Relatively few women achieved the international recommendations for duration of full and overall breastfeeding. Women should receive anticipatory guidance while still in the hospital on how to prevent or manage common breastfeeding difficulties and should be discouraged from introducing a pacifier before 10 weeks, if at all. Improved maternity leave provisions and more flexible working conditions may help women to remain at home with their infants longer and/or to combine successfully breastfeeding with employment outside the home.