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Keywords:

  • breastfeeding;
  • decision-making;
  • influencing factors;
  • mother's choice;
  • midwifery care;
  • breastfeeding knowledge

Background.  The low prevalence and short duration of breastfeeding in international studies have highlighted the need for more investigations into the problems. International studies have identified certain factors that affect breastfeeding intentions. Due to insufficient published studies on the local breastfeeding situation, this study specifically investigated factors influencing the breastfeeding decision among primipara women in Hong Kong.

Aim.  The aim of this paper is to report a study investigating the personal, social, cultural, facilities and environmental and other factors contributing to women's decisions to breastfeed, and to exploring first-time mothers’ knowledge of breastfeeding and its influence on their breastfeeding intentions.

Methods.  Three private and 10 public hospitals in Hong Kong participated in the study. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected through questionnaires and subsequently by in-depth interviews with 230 first-time mothers 24–48 hours after delivery.

Results.  The results indicated that personal, cultural, social, and environmental factors are common influencing factors in the decision to breastfeed. Mother's knowledge and attitudes, followed by husband's support, were identified as important in influencing infant feeding choice. Expected local cultural differences were also identified.

Discussion.  Acknowledgement of the influencing factors could lead to appropriate management of the promotion of breastfeeding. Further research into husband's role, recognition and support for infant feeding and the issue of ‘inadequate breast milk’ is necessary for a successful breastfeeding campaign. Some other interesting findings typical of the local culture, such as family communication and living environment relating to breastfeeding, are also discussed.

Conclusions.  The study has identified the influencing factors that affect women's decision to breastfeed. Recommendations are made for health care professionals and the community to create a more baby-friendly atmosphere and environment for the promotion of breastfeeding.