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International Breastfeeding Journal;7
We have previously shown that in Iran, only 28% of infants were exclusively breastfed at six months, despite a high prevalence of breastfeeding at two years of age. The primary aim of this study was to investigate the reasons women discontinued exclusive breastfeeding. This retrospective study was based on questionnaires and interviews with 63,071 mothers of infants up to 24 months of age, divided into two populations: infants younger than six months and six months or older. The data were collected in 2005–2006 from all 30 provinces of Iran. Only 5.3% of infants less than six months of age stopped breastfeeding (mean age of 3.2 months); more commonly in urban than rural areas. The most frequently cited reasons mothers gave for discontinuing exclusive breastfeeding were physicians’ recommendation (54%) and insufficient breast milk (self-perceived or true, 28%). Breastfeeding was common after six months of age: only 11% of infants discontinued breastfeeding, at a mean of 13.8 months. The most common reason for discontinuation at this age was insufficient breast milk (self-perceived or true, 45%). Maternal illness or medication (10%), infant illness (6%), and return to work (3%) were uncommon causes. Use of a pacifier was correlated with breastfeeding discontinuation. Maternal age and education was not associated with duration of breastfeeding. Multivariate analysis showed that using a pacifier and formula or other bottle feeding increased the risk of early cessation of breastfeeding. Physicians and other health professionals have an important role to play in encouraging and supporting mothers to maintain breastfeeding.
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