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Summary

We compared breastfeeding initiation and duration in 1054 nulliaparae randomised to bupivacaine Control epidural, Combined Spinal Epidural or Low Dose Infusion and 351 matched non-epidural comparisons. Women were interviewed after delivery and completed a postal questionnaire at 12 months. Regression analysis determined factors which independently predicted breastfeeding initiation. Breastfeeding duration was subjected to Kaplan–Meier analysis. A similar proportion of women in each epidural group initiated breastfeeding. Women with no epidural did not report a higher initiation rate relative to epidural groups and those who received pethidine reported a lower initiation rate than control epidural (p = 0.002). Older age groups (p < 0.001) and non-white ethnicity (p < 0.026) were predictive of breastfeeding. Epidural fentanyl dose, delivery mode and trial group were not predictive. Mean duration for breastfeeding was similar across epidural groups (Control 13.3, Combined Spinal Epidural 15.5, Low Dose Infusion 15.0 weeks). Our data do not support an effect of epidural fentanyl on breastfeeding initiation.