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Early Term Delivery and Breastfeeding Outcomes



Higher rates of adverse outcomes have been reported for early term (37 0 to 38 6 weeks) versus full term (≥ 39 0 weeks) infants, but differences in breastfeeding outcomes have not been systematically evaluated. This study examined breastfeeding initiation and exclusivity in early and full term infants in a large US based sample.


This secondary analysis included 743 geographically- and racially-diverse women from the Measurement of Maternal Stress Study cohort, and 295 women from a quality assessment at a hospital-based clinic in Evanston, IL. Only subjects delivering ≥ 37 weeks were included. Initiation of breastfeeding (IBF) and exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) were assessed via electronic medical record review after discharge. Associations of IBF and EBF with early and full term delivery were assessed via univariate and multivariate logistic regression.


Among 872 women eligible for inclusion, 85.7% IBF and 44.0% EBF. Early term delivery was not associated with any difference in frequency of IBF (p = 0.43), but was associated with significantly lower odds of EBF (unadjusted OR 0.61, 95% CI 0.466, 0.803, p < 0.001). This association remained significant (adjusted OR 0.694, 95% CI 0.515, 0.935, p = 0.016) after adjusting for maternal diabetes, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, cesarean delivery, maternal age, race/ethnicity, parity, Medicaid status, NICU admission, current smoking, and delivery hospital.

Conclusions for Practice

Despite comparable breastfeeding initiation frequencies, early term infants were significantly less likely to be exclusively breastfed compared to full term infants. These data suggest that women with early term infants may benefit from counseling regarding the potential for breastfeeding difficulties as well as additional breastfeeding support after delivery.

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Financial support for this research provided by the following sources: HHSN275201200007I–HHSN27500005. National Children’s Study: Vanguard Study – Task Order 5: Stress and Cortisol Measurement for the National Children’s Study. Principal Investigator: Ann E.B. Borders, MD, MSc, MPH. We are grateful for the support of the MOMS Study Collaboration including research staff and participants. We also appreciate the important contribution of the MOM-le pilot study collaboration.

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Correspondence to Lauren S. Keenan-Devlin.

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Keenan-Devlin, L.S., Awosemusi, Y.F., Grobman, W. et al. Early Term Delivery and Breastfeeding Outcomes. Matern Child Health J 23, 1339–1347 (2019).

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  • Breastfeeding
  • Breastfeeding initiation
  • Disparities
  • Early term
  • Exclusive breastfeeding