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Association of labor epidural analgesia use with exclusive breastfeeding up to six months: a online-based cross sectional survey in Jiaxing, China.

BACKGROUND: The impact of labor epidural analgesia (LEA) on breastfeeding remains controversial. The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between LEA use and exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) up to 6 months.

METHODS: This was a cross-sectional survey on healthy mothers who had vaginal delivery with infants aged 7-12 months from seven maternal health WeChat groups in Jiaxing, China. Data including EBF status up to 6 months, maternal sociodemographic characteristics, LEA use in labor, breastfeeding supports during hospitalization and reasons for stopping EBF were collected using online self-administered questionnaires in October 2021. A multivariable logistic regression model was used to determine the potential association of LEA use with EBF up to 6 months by the adjusted odds ratio (AOR) and 95% confidence interval (CI).

RESULTS: Of a total of 537 surveyed mothers, 408 (76.0%) delivered with LEA and 398 (74.1%) exclusively breastfed their infants until 6 months. All mothers delivered in the hospitals with active breastfeeding policies. There was no statistical difference in the rate of EBF up to 6 months between mothers with and without LEA (73.8% versus 75.2%, P = 0.748). Multivariable logistic regression analysis indicated that only increased maternal age (AOR = 0.906, 95% CI 0.854-0.961, P = 0.001) and perceived insufficient breast milk (AOR = 0.129, 95% CI 0.082-0.204, P <  0.001) were associated with lower odds of EBF up to 6 months. The top three reasons for non-EBF were no or insufficient breast milk (41.7%), inability to breastfeed infants after return to work (27.3%), and maternal related factors (24.4%).

CONCLUSIONS: LEA does not affect EBF up to 6 months. Other factors such as health education and breastfeeding-friendly hospital strategies may be much more important to breastfeeding outcomes compared to LEA use.

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