A random sample of 617 primiparas was identified from birth notifications over a 12 month period and 534 of these were interviewed four weeks after confinement. Those breast feeding at the time of interview were contacted again at four months and those still breast feeding then were contacted at six and a half months. Duration of breast feeding was found to be significantly associated with five interassociated personal characteristics of the mother and with specific aspects of her knowledge and attitudes regarding breast feeding. In hospital the timing of the first breast feed and difficulties with subsequent feeds, were important indicators; while at home the use of additional formula feeds was associated with a reduced prevalence of breast feeding by 18 weeks. A combination of older maternal age at confinement and older age at leaving school showed a tenfold increase of prevalence rates in breast feeding at 16 weeks between groups of mothers. The use of these two factors alone may thus help doctors, midwives, and health visitors in assessing the risk of premature termination of breast feeding and in planning programmes of preventive care.
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