Breastfeeding is a key public health measure to protect and promote the health of one of the most vulnerable groups of the population—infants and children. Northern Ireland, however, has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. This paper reports the results of a questionnaire survey of 120 mothers attending mother and toddler groups in a socio-economically deprived area of Belfast Northern Ireland. Mothers' attitudes to breastfeeding were measured by the Iowa Infant Feeding Attitude Scale (IIFAS). In line with previous research, mothers who were older, had a husband or partner, who were of higher social class and who had themselves been breastfed as a child were more likely to breastfeed their own children. It was found that high scores on the IIFAS were significantly associated with breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding. However, of the 57% of study participants who reported that they had initiated breastfeeding, the majority (85.4%) reported that they had breastfed for less than the six months recommended by the World Health Organisation. Breastfeeding mothers reported that health benefits and information were the main reasons for their choice of feeding method and were more likely to rate information received from health professionals positively. Bottlefeeding mothers rated convenience, experience and “the norm” as the main reasons for choice of feeding and were more likely to rate information from health professionals negatively. The authors conclude that Northern Irish society needs to proactively encourage a positive breastfeeding culture and that the IIFAS may be useful in targeting interventions.
- Northern Ireland.