Article Title

Breastfeeding by Aboriginal mothers in Perth


Objective: To document the breastfeeding practices of Aboriginal mothers delivering in Perth.

Design and methods: A cohort of mothers was followed from the time of delivery for six months to obtain details of infant feeding practices.

Subjects: A total of 455 mothers delivered during the study period and were asked to participate. A total of 425 mothers completed the initial questionnaire.

Setting: The study was undertaken in six public hospitals in Perth, Western Australia.

Data analyses: The data were analysed using spss. Breastfeeding duration was calculated using Kaplan–Meier survival analysis.

Main outcome measures: Breastfeeding initiation and duration.

Results: The mean age of the Aboriginal mothers was 21.8 years (range 14–39 years, SD 5.32) and the average gestational age was 38.3 weeks. Almost 50% of the mothers in the study delivered by Caesarean section. At discharge from hospital 89.4% (CI 86.6–92.1) of mothers were breastfeeding, declining to 58.8% (CI 53.5–64.1) at six months. When compared with non-Aboriginal mothers, the Aboriginal breastfeeding rates were higher than the non-Aboriginal average breastfeeding rates, but lower than the highest socioeconomic group.

Conclusions: The breastfeeding rates of Aboriginal mothers are higher than for other Australians. This is despite the low maternal age and level of education and the high rates of low-birth-weight infants and Caesarean section among this population. The World Health Organization recommendation for infant feeding is exclusive breastfeeding until six months, but less than one-third of Aboriginal mothers achieved this recommendation.

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