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Keywords:

  • Breastfeeding;
  • complementary feeding;
  • cow's milk;
  • solid foods

Aim: To investigate infant feeding practices through the first year of life in Italy, and to identify factors associated with the duration of breastfeeding and early introduction of solid foods. Methods: Structured phone interviews on feeding practices were conducted with 2450 Italian-speaking mothers randomly selected among women who delivered a healthy-term singleton infant in November 1999 in Italy. Interviews were performed 30 d after delivery and when the infants were aged 3, 6, 9 and 12 mo. Type of breastfeeding was classified according to the WHO criteria. Results: Breastfeeding started in 91.1% of infants. At the age of 6 and 12mo, respectively, 46.8% and 11.8% of the infants was still breastfed, 68.4% and 27.7% received formula, and 18.3% and 65.2% were given cow's milk. Solids were introduced at the mean age of 4.3 mo (range 1.6–6.5 mo). Introduction of solids occurred before age 3 and 4 mo in 5.6% and 34.2% of infants, respectively. The first solids introduced were fruit (73.1%) and cereals (63.9%). The main factors (negatively) associated with the duration of breastfeeding were pacifier use (p > 0.0001), early introduction of formula (p > 0.0001), lower mother's age (p > 0.01) and early introduction of solids (p= 0.05). Factors (negatively) associated with the introduction of solids foods before the age of 3 mo were mother not having breastfed (p > 0.01), early introduction of formula (p > 0.01), lower infant bodyweight at the age of 1 mo (p= 0.05) and mother smoking (p= 0.05).

Conclusion: The duration of breastfeeding in Italy is still inadequate, as well as compliance with international recommendations for timing of introduction of complementary foods. National guidelines, public messages and educational campaigns should be promoted in Italy.