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Breastfeeding research

Completed Project

Folder icon Aug 2012 - Dec 2014

In 2012-2013, we undertook a study to better understand the influence parental characteristics, socioeconomic factors, cultural background and health services had on infant feeding patterns in Scotland. In addition, we examined the potential health and economic benefits of exclusive breastfeeding on health in early childhood.  

This project had two phases, both joint-funded by the Scottish Centre for Public Health Research and Policy (SCPHRP) and the GCPH. 

Phase 1  

Work in phase 1 focussed on understanding increases in breastfeeding rates observed in selected neighbourhoods in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) between 1997 and 2008. The project also investigated national trends and analyses in infant feeding using linked data.  

The project had both national and local objectives:  

  • To identify demographic, socioeconomic, structural or cultural changes that influence national and local (NHSGGC) breastfeeding rates. 
  • To understand the impact of a range of individual, cultural and socioeconomic factors such as maternal age, previous breastfeeding history, deprivation, and ethnic background on the likelihood and duration of breastfeeding in the selected neighbourhoods and across Scotland. 
  • To determine the best data sources and methods that may be used to understand infant feeding patterns in NHSGGC and nationally.  

Phase 2  

Initially in this phase, we investigated whether there was a hospital effect on infant feeding in Glasgow, independent of Baby Friendly Accreditation, using the existing linked dataset created in Phase 1.  

The more substantial part of this phase involved extending the maternal and infant linked dataset through linkage to infant hospitalisation records, primary care consultations and child health surveillance records (at pre-school and primary 1 school review). 

This resource analysed patterns of morbidity, hospitalisation and weight gain, comparing children who were breastfed, mixed fed or bottle-fed.The findings from this study showed that exclusive breastfeeding was associated with reduced childhood illness and hospitalisation.

resources icon Further resources & reading

Levelling up health in the early years: A cost-analysis of infant feeding and healthcare | PLOS ONE Ajetunmobi O, McIntosh E, Stockton D, Tappin D, Whyte B. PLoS ONE 2024 19(5): e0300267.

Breastfeeding Could Save Millions in Healthcare Costs ( (Blog)

Breastfeeding is Associated with Reduced Childhood Hospitalization: Evidence from a Scottish Birth Cohort (1997-2009).  Omotomilola MA, Whyte B, Chalmers J, et al. Journal of Pediatrics 2014. DOI:

Informing the ‘early years’ agenda in Scotland: understanding infant feeding patterns using linked datasets. Ajetunmobi O, Whyte B, Chalmers J, et al. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2013. DOI: 10.1136/jech-2013-202718

Deprivation and infant feeding at birth. Ajetunmobi O and Whyte B. Arch Dis Child 2012;97:A183-A186 doi:10.1136/archdischild-2012-301885.430

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