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Breastfeeding patterns among ethnic minorities: the Generation R Study


Background Because breastfeeding is the best method of infant feeding, groups at risk of low breastfeeding rates should be identified. Therefore, this study compared breastfeeding patterns of ethnic minority groups in The Netherlands with those of native mothers and established how they were influenced by generational status and socio-demographic determinants of breastfeeding.

Methods We used data on 2914 Dutch, 366 Mediterranean first-generation, 143 Mediterranean second-generation, 285 Caribbean first-generation and 140 Caribbean second-generation mothers. Information on starting breastfeeding and breastfeeding at 2 and 6 months after birth were obtained from questionnaires during the first year after birth.

Results Overall, 90.6% of women started breastfeeding after delivery. This percentage was lowest among the native Dutch (89.1%) and highest among the Mediterranean second-generation women (98.6%; p<0.001). At 6 months postpartum, 30.6% of mothers were still breastfeeding, ranging from 19.3% in the Caribbean second-generation mothers to 42.6% in first-generation Mediterranean mothers. After adjustment for covariates, more non-native mothers started breastfeeding than native Dutch mothers. While Mediterranean first-generation mothers had higher breastfeeding rates at 6 months (OR: 2.71, 95% CI: 2.09 to 3.51), there were no differences in Mediterranean second-generation and Caribbean mothers compared to native Dutch mothers.

Conclusion More non-native mothers started breastfeeding than native mothers, but relative fewer continued. Although both native Dutch and non-native mothers had low continuation rates, ethnic minorities may face other difficulties in continuing breastfeeding than native women.

  • Breastfeeding
  • immigrants
  • ethnicity
  • socio-economic status
  • ethnic minorities SI
  • social inequalities

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