OBJECTIVE:To explore whether feeding only directly from the breast in the first 24-48 h of life increases the proportion of infants receiving any breast milk at 6 months. DESIGN:A prospective cohort study. SETTING:Three maternity hospitals in Melbourne, Australia. PARTICIPANTS:1003 postpartum English-speaking women with a healthy singleton term infant, who intended to breast feed, were recruited between 2009 and 2011. Women were excluded if they or their infant were seriously ill. 92% (n=924) were followed up at 6 months postpartum. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES:Main exposure variable - type of infant feeding in hospital up to time of study recruitment (24-48 h postpartum), categorised as 'fed directly at the breast only' or 'received at least some expressed breast milk (EBM) or infant formula'. Primary outcome - proportion of infants receiving any breast milk feeding at 6 months postpartum. Secondary outcomes - proportion of infants receiving only breast milk feeding at 6 months; breast milk feeding duration; and maternal characteristics associated with giving any breast milk at 6 months. RESULTS:Infants who had fed only at the breast prior to recruitment were more likely to be continuing to have any breast milk at 6 months than those who had received any EBM and/or infant formula (76% vs 59%; adjusted OR 1.76, 95% CI 1.24 to 2.48 (adjusted for parity, type of birth, breastfeeding intention, breastfeeding problems at recruitment, public/private status, epidural for labour or birth, maternal body mass index and education)). CONCLUSIONS:Healthy term infants that fed only directly at the breast 24-48 h after birth were more likely to be continuing to breast feed at 6 months than those who received any EBM and/or formula in the early postpartum period. Support and encouragement to initiate breastfeeding directly at the breast is important.