• breastfeeding;
  • hospital practices


Background  The aim of this study was to verify if hospital policies and practices, independently of main maternal sociodemographic determinants, influence initiation and duration of breastfeeding.

Methods  The study was carried out at the Immunization Centre of Messina where all infants born in the four maternity wards of Messina are vaccinated, using a structured questionnaire, constructed in conformity with the methodology suggested by the WHO.

Results  Data analysis, performed by non-parametric and multivariate analysis of variance and by Kaplan–Meier curves, showed that the highest probability rate (P < 0.001) of initiation and duration of breastfeeding, independently of maternal age, parity, education levels, smoke and work was found in infants born in a University Hospital, characterized by earlier times of first suckling, longer hospital stay and higher rate of exclusive breastfeeding at discharge.

Conclusion  Our data emphasize the role and responsibility of hospital policies and practices in the promotion, and in the duration of breastfeeding.