Infant feeding in diverse families; the impact of ethnicity and migration on feeding practices

Publication authors

Katie Marvin-Dowle, Hora Soltani, Rachael Spencer



To investigate differences in infant feeding practices and styles by maternal migration status.


Prospective cohort study.


Maternity unit of a large hospital in Northern England


Women recruited to the Born in Bradford longitudinal cohort study


Breastfeeding initiation; breastfeeding at six months; breastfeeding at twelve months; timing of introduction of complementary feeding; maternal feeding style at twelve months.


Migrant women were more likely to initiate breastfeeding and continue breastfeeding for longer compared to native women. Native women also introduced complementary feeding earlier than migrant women. There was evidence of feeding practices among second= generation migrants becoming increasingly more aligned with those of native women, with lower breastfeeding rates and earlier introduction of complementary feeding compared to first-generation migrants. Migrant women were more likely to adopt a ‘Demanding’ feeding style, with the strongest associations seen in first-generation migrants.

Key conclusions

Migration status is an important factor to consider in reference to infant feeding practices. This is particularly important in considering intergenerational changes in families with migration backgrounds and the potential of culture to impact on family practices.

Implications for practice

Interventions to maintain cultural norms around infant feeding in families with migration backgrounds would be beneficial, due to the observed higher rates of breastfeeding in first-generation migrants. Targeted interventions to improve breastfeeding in white British native women should consider the role that culture can play in encouraging positive health behaviours.