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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth



Migration to another country has a potential influence on breastfeeding practices. A significant difference in breastfeeding rates between Irish nationals and non-nationals has been reported. This study was conducted to explore breastfeeding practices of the Chinese in Ireland, one of the largest Irish ethnic groups, and to explore the influence of living in Ireland on breastfeeding practices. This is the first and the only migration study so far on breastfeeding practices among the Chinese in Ireland.


A sequential explanatory mixed methods approach was adopted. The first phase was a cross-sectional self-administered retrospective mailed survey, to explore breastfeeding practices and determinants of breastfeeding among a convenience sample of Chinese mothers living in Ireland (n = 322). Recruitment was conducted in the Dublin metropolitan area, with the application of the snowball technique to increase sample size. The second phase consisted of seven semi-structured focus groups (n = 33) conducted in Dublin, to explore the influence of living in Ireland on breastfeeding among Chinese mothers who had given birth in Ireland. Quantitative data were analyzed by univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses, and informed the qualitative data collection. Qualitative data were analyzed by thematic content analyses, to explain and enrich the qualitative results.


The breastfeeding initiation rate among Chinese immigrants to Ireland who gave birth in Ireland (CMI) (75.6%) was high and close to that of Chinese immigrant mothers who gave birth in China (CMC) (87.2%). However, giving birth in Ireland was independently associated with a shorter duration of breastfeeding (< 4 months) among Chinese immigrants. Qualitative results explained that a shorter breastfeeding duration among CMI than that of CMC was mainly due to cultural conflicts, a lack of family support, language barriers, immigrants’ low socioeconomic status, and mothers’ preference for infant formula on the Irish market. Both quantitative and qualitative data revealed a strong cultural belief in the efficacy of the traditional Chinese postpartum diet for breast milk production for both CMC and CMI. Antenatal feeding intention was a strong determinant for breastfeeding initiation and duration among CMI.


Migration to Ireland was found to be associated with a shorter duration of breastfeeding of the Chinese. Culturally sensitive and language-specific education and support of breastfeeding is needed for the Chinese mothers living in Ireland. The mixed methods design presented here might serve as a template for future migration research on breastfeeding.


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