To examine the relationship between maternal obesity and the initiation and duration of breastfeeding.
Analysis was made of the 1995 National Health Survey, in which personal interviews were conducted on a multistage area sample of private dwellings and a list sample of non-private dwellings in all states and territories of Australia. Mothers between the ages of 17 and 50 years (n = 1991) with children under the age of 4 years in 1995 participated in the study.
Of the group of mothers with a body mass index (BMI) of 20-25, 89.2% (95% confidence interval (CI) 87.4-91.0) initiated breastfeeding, compared with 82.3% (95% CI 77.6-87.0) of mothers with a BMI of 30 or more. There was also a significant difference between the mean and median duration of breastfeeding of obese and non-obese mothers (BMI 30 and over, < 25, respectively). These differences remained significant when maternal smoking, age and other sociodemographic factors were taken into consideration.
Health professionals should be aware that obese women may be at increased risk of not breastfeeding or stopping breastfeeding prematurely.