Abstract: Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) developed the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative to improve hospital maternity care practices that support breastfeeding. In Hong Kong, although no hospitals have yet received the Baby-Friendly status, efforts have been made to improve breastfeeding support. The aim of this study was to examine the impact of Baby-Friendly hospital practices on breastfeeding duration.
Methods: A sample of 1,242 breastfeeding mother-infant pairs was recruited from four public hospitals in Hong Kong and followed up prospectively for up to 12 months. The primary outcome variable was defined as breastfeeding for 8 weeks or less. Predictor variables included six Baby-Friendly practices: breastfeeding initiation within 1 hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding while in hospital, rooming-in, breastfeeding on demand, no pacifiers or artificial nipples, and information on breastfeeding support groups provided on discharge.
Results: Only 46.6 percent of women breastfed for more than 8 weeks, and only 4.8 percent of mothers experienced all six Baby-Friendly practices. After controlling for all other Baby-Friendly practices and possible confounding variables, exclusive breastfeeding while in hospital was protective against early breastfeeding cessation (OR: 0.61; 95% CI: 0.42–0.88). Compared with mothers who experienced all six Baby-Friendly practices, those who experienced one or fewer Baby-Friendly practices were almost three times more likely to discontinue breastfeeding (OR: 3.13; 95% CI: 1.41–6.95).
Conclusions: Greater exposure to Baby-Friendly practices would substantially increase new mothers’ chances of breastfeeding beyond 8 weeks postpartum. To further improve maternity care practices in hospitals, institutional and administrative support are required to ensure all mothers receive adequate breastfeeding support in accordance with WHO guidelines. (BIRTH 38:3 September 2011)