Breastfeeding reduces the risk of child deaths and of infectious disease morbidity.1 Breastfeeding is associated with fewer dental malocclusions, higher intelligence quotient scores and a reduced risk of overweight and…
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Although 97 percent of New Zealand children are breastfed initially, a large number are not being breastfed for as long as international guidelines recommend. New evidence from the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study of more than 6,000 children and families (generalisable to the New Zealand national birth cohort) showed only one in six children achieved the World Health Organization-recommended six months of exclusive breastfeeding. One in eight achieved the recommendation of receiving some breast milk for two or more years. Duration of breastfeeding was also shown in the study to be associated with mothers’ age, ethnicity, education, number of children and whether the pregnancy was planned.
To describe breastfeeding initiation and duration, and demographic associations with breastfeeding duration within a representative sample of New Zealand infants.
In 6,685 singletons enrolled in the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort we described breastfeeding initiation (96%), any (94%) and exclusive (93%) breastfeeding (EBF) duration. We used adjusted relative risk (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) to describe associations with breastfeeding duration.
Breastfeeding initiation occurred for 97%. Sixteen percent were EBF to age six months and 13% were breastfed to age 24 months. Exclusive breastfeeding for ≥4 months was less likely for children of mothers of Māori (RR=0.80, 95% CI 0.73–0.87), Pacific (0.90, 95% CI 0.83–0.98) or Asian (0.80, 95% CI 0.74–0.86) ethnicity. Children of mothers aged 20–29 years (1.24, 95% CI 1.04–1.49); ≥30 years (1.36, 95% CI 1.14–1); with a tertiary education (1.14, 95% CI 1.08–1.21); or planned pregnancy (1.14, 95% CI 1.08–1.21); and children with older siblings (RR=1.31, 95% CI 1.17–1.47) were more likely to be exclusively breastfed for ≥4 months. Children were more likely to be breastfed ≥6 months if their mother was aged 20–29 (1.26, 95% CI 1.10–1.45) or ≥30 years (1.40, 95% CI 1.22–1.61), had a tertiary education (1.11, 95% CI 1.06–1.59) or planned pregnancy (1.11, 95% CI 1.06–1.15), or if they had older siblings (1.04, 95% CI 1.00–1.08).
In New Zealand, most children are initially breastfed, however a large proportion did not receive the recommended duration of any or exclusive breastfeeding. Maternal age, education, parity and pregnancy planning identify children at risk of shorter duration of breastfeeding and EBF, and maternal ethnicity identifies children at risk of shorter EBF duration.