Little is known about the role of breastfeeding contraindications in breastfeeding practices. Our objectives were to 1) identify predictors of breastfeeding initiation and duration among a cohort of predominately low-income, inner-city women, and 2) evaluate the contribution of breastfeeding contraindications to breastfeeding practices.
Mother-infant dyads were systematically selected from 3 District of Columbia hospitals between 1995 and 1996. Breastfeeding contraindications and potential predictors of breastfeeding practices were identified through medical record reviews and interviews conducted after delivery (baseline). Interviews were conducted at 3–7 months postpartum and again at 7–12 months postpartum to determine breastfeeding initiation rates and duration. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to identify baseline factors associated with initiation of breastfeeding. Cox proportional hazards models were generated to identify baseline factors associated with duration of breastfeeding.
Of 393 study participants, 201 (51%) initiated breastfeeding. A total of 61 women (16%) had at lease one documented contraindication to breastfeeding; 94% of these had a history of HIV infection and/or cocaine use. Of the 332 women with no documented contraindications, 58% initiated breastfeeding, vs. 13% of women with a contraindication. In adjusted analysis, factors most strongly associated with breastfeeding initiation were presence of a contraindication (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.19; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.08–0.47), and mother foreign-born (AOR, 4.90; 95% CI, 2.38–10.10). Twenty-five percent of study participants who did not initiate breastfeeding cited concern about passing dangerous things to their infants through breast milk. Factors associated with discontinuation of breastfeeding (all protective) included mother foreign-born (hazard ratio [HR], 0.55; 95% CI 0.39–0.77) increasing maternal age (HR for 5-year increments, 0.80; 95% CI, 0.69–0.92), and infant birth weight ≥ 2500 grams (HR, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.26–0.80).
Breastfeeding initiation rates and duration were suboptimal in this inner-city population. Many women who did not breastfeed had contraindications and/or were concerned about passing dangerous things to their infants through breast milk. It is important to consider the prevalence of contraindications to breastfeeding when evaluating breastfeeding practices in high-risk communities.