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Informing the ‘early years’ agenda in Scotland: understanding infant feeding patterns using linked datasets
  1. Omotomilola Ajetunmobi1,
  2. Bruce Whyte2,
  3. James Chalmers1,
  4. Michael Fleming1,
  5. Diane Stockton1,
  6. Rachel Wood1
  1. 1Information Services Division, NHS National Services Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
  2. 2Glasgow Centre for Population Health, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  1. Correspondence to Omotomilola Ajetunmobi, Area 151A, Information Services Division, NHS National Services Scotland, 1 South Gyle Crescent, South Gyle, Edinburgh, Scotland EH12 9EB, UK; o.ajetunmobi{at}


Background Providing infants with the ‘best possible start in life’ is a priority for the Scottish Government. This is reflected in policy and health promotion strategies to increase breast feeding, which gives the best source of nutrients for healthy infant growth and development. However, the rate of breast feeding in Scotland remains one of the lowest in Europe. Information is needed to provide a better understanding of infant feeding and its impact on child health. This paper describes the development of a unique population-wide resource created to explore infant feeding and child health in Scotland.

Methods Descriptive and multivariate analyses of linked routine/administrative maternal and infant health records for 731 595 infants born in Scotland between 1997 and 2009.

Results A linked dataset was created containing a wide range of background, parental, maternal, birth and health service characteristics for a representative sample of infants born in Scotland over the study period. There was high coverage and completeness of infant feeding and other demographic, maternal and infant records. The results confirmed the importance of an enabling environment—cultural, family, health service and other maternal and infant health-related factors—in increasing the likelihood to breast feed.

Conclusions Using the linked dataset, it was possible to investigate the determinants of breast feeding for a representative sample of Scottish infants born between 1997 and 2009. The linked dataset is an important resource that has potential uses in research, policy design and targeting intervention programmes.


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