Are data on the prevalence and duration of breastfeeding reliable? The case of Italy

A. Cattaneo, R. Davanzo, L. Ronfani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many countries produce data on the prevalence and duration of breastfeeding, but are they reliable? We reviewed 16 studies on breastfeeding in Italy published after 1990. They report a prevalence of breastfeeding at and around birth ranging from 66% to 91%, decreasing to 17-52% at 4 mo and 28-36% at 6 mo. Most studies refer to a non-representative sample of the Italian population. Two studies used standard definitions of breastfeeding, but their results are difficult to interpret or cannot be generalized. Five other studies used non-standard definitions that undermine the interpretation of results. The remaining nine studies used no definition at all. All studies used a recall period different from 24 h, or from the whole hospital stay for breastfeeding at discharge, making the interpretation of results even more difficult. We conclude that the published information gives an inaccurate picture of the prevalence and duration of breastfeeding in Italy, leading to unjustified optimism and inaction. The actual figures may be lower, as shown by preliminary data from a small Italian region: using standard definitions and methods during a 9-mo monitoring period, exclusive breastfeeding averaged 35% at discharge and 23% at about 4 mo of age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-93
Number of pages6
JournalActa Paediatrica, International Journal of Paediatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Breastfeeding
  • Epidemiology
  • Italy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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