Low breastfeeding continuation to 6 months for very preterm infants: A European multiregional cohort study

EPICE Research Group

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Breastfeeding confers multiple benefits for the health and development of very preterm infants, but there is scarce information on the duration of breastfeeding after discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). We used data from the Effective Perinatal Intensive Care in Europe population-based cohort of births below 32 weeks of gestation in 11 European countries in 2011-2012 to investigate breastfeeding continuation until 6 months. Clinical and sociodemographic characteristics were collected from obstetric and neonatal medical records as well as parental questionnaires at 2 years of corrected age. Among 3,217 ever-breastfed infants, 34% were breastfeeding at 6 months of age (range across countries from 25% to 56%); younger and less educated mothers were more likely to stop before 6 months (adjusted relative risk [aRR] <25 years: 0.68, 95% CI [0.53, 0.88], vs. 25-34 years; lower secondary: 0.58, 95% CI [0.45, 0.76] vs. postgraduate education). Multiple birth, bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), and several neonatal transfers reduced the probability of continuation but not low gestational age, fetal growth restriction, congenital anomalies, or severe neonatal morbidities. Among infants breastfeeding at discharge, mixed versus exclusive breast milk feeding at discharge was associated with stopping before 6 months: aRR = 0.60, 95% CI [0.48, 0.74]. Low breastfeeding continuation rates in this high-risk population call for more support to breastfeeding mothers during and after the neonatal hospitalization, especially for families with low socio-economic status, multiples, and infants with BPD. Promotion of exclusive breastfeeding in the NICU may constitute a lever for improving breastfeeding continuation after discharge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e12657
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Aug 23 2018

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