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An efficient breast-feeding monitoring system should be in place in every country to assist policy makers and health professionals plan activities to reach optimal breast-feeding rates.
From March to June 2015, breast-feeding rates at 3 and 5 months of age were monitored in Emilia-Romagna, an Italian region, using four questions added to a newly developed paediatric immunization database with single records for each individual. Data were collected at primary-care centres. Breast-feeding definitions and 24 h recall as recommended by the WHO were used. Direct age standardization was applied to breast-feeding rates. Record linkage with the medical birth database was attempted to identify maternal, pregnancy and delivery factors associated with full breast-feeding rates at 3 and 5 months of age.
Data on breast-feeding were collected for 14044 infants. The mean regional full breast-feeding rate at 3 months was 52 %; differences between local health authorities ranged from 42 to 62 %. At 5 months of age, the mean regional full breast-feeding rate dropped to 33 % (range between local health authorities: 26 to 46 %). Record linkage with the birth certificate database was successful for 93 % of records. Total observations more than doubled with respect to the previous regional survey.
The new monitoring system implemented in 2015 in Emilia-Romagna region, totally integrated with the immunization database, has proved to be feasible, sustainable and more efficient than the previous one. This system can be a model for other regions and countries where the vast majority of mothers obtain vaccinations from public health facilities and that already have an immunization database in place.
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