Understanding breastfeeding behaviours: a cross-sectional analysis of associated factors in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Australia

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Gallegos, D
Parkinson, J
Duane, S
Domegan, C
Jansen, E
Russell-Bennett, R
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Background: Breastfeeding is a complex behaviour relying on a combination of individual mother and infant characteristics, health systems, and family, community and professional support. Optimal breastfeeding in high-income countries is particularly low. Despite having similar sociocultural backgrounds, breastfeeding rates between Ireland, the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia vary, thus there is a need to understand whether this is due to individual, sociocultural or policy differences. This research identifies the between-country differences in infant feeding mode and examines if country differences in feeding mode persist once known individual, behavioural and structural factors are considered using socioecological and person-context models. Methods: Participants were adult women with at least one infant less than 6 months of age, who completed an online survey (n = 2047) that was distributed by social media in June 2016. Within-country differences in infant feeding mode (‘any breastfeeding’ vs. ‘no breastfeeding’) were examined first before hierarchical multivariable logistic regression was used to determine if country differences in feeding mode persisted after adjusting for known factors associated with breastfeeding. Results: In this sample, ‘any breastfeeding’ rates were 89, 71 and 72% in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom respectively. Within-country differences were evident in Australia, Ireland and the UK. Four factors showed no association with infant feeding mode in Australia while they did in the other countries (maternal age, income, skin-to-skin contact, support from friends and family). Two factors were unique to Australia: the odds of being in the ‘no breastfeeding’ group increased when the baby was delivered via caesarean and when not enough breastfeeding information was available after birth. One determinant was unique to Ireland: the odds of being in the ‘no breastfeeding’ group increased when respondents indicated they were not religious; in the UK this occurred when respondents were living in a town/village. After adjusting for sets of known factors of infant feeding mode based on socioecological and person-context models, country differences remained in hierarchical regressions: the odds of not breastfeeding were higher in both Ireland (AOR 3.3, 95%CI 1.8,6.1) and the United Kingdom (AOR 2.7, 95%CI 1.5, 4.7) compared to Australia. Conclusions: This study indicates that different levels in the socioecological system are related to infant feeding behaviours. An adequate inter-systems level response would consider the interactions within and between behavioural and structural mechanisms which support breastfeeding behaviour. Optimising infant feeding practices will require an integrated web of interventions that go beyond the individual and focus on addressing factors that will influence families within their communities as they move between systems.

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International Breastfeeding Journal

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© The Author(s). 2020. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.

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Gallegos, D; Parkinson, J; Duane, S; Domegan, C; Jansen, E; Russell-Bennett, R, Understanding breastfeeding behaviours: a cross-sectional analysis of associated factors in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Australia, International Breastfeeding Journal, 2020, 15 (1)