Many studies of the impact of breastfeeding on child or maternal health have relied on data reported retrospectively.For example, the U.S. National Maternal and Infant Health Survey (NMIHS) asked mothers to recall how ice's Healthy People 2010[2] uses the Ross Laboratories Mothers' Survey, a national survey to identify baseline rates of breastfeeding and monitor progress in meeting the national objectives. Previously mailed to new mothers at 6 months post-partum, it now collects information every month for the first 12 months post-partum.

The 1981 National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, included a Child Health Supplement that asked about childhood diseases for a randomly selected child in the household under 18 years of age, as well as about breastfeeding and supplementation practices and weaning age[3]. For this sample, the recall period for breastfeeding questions was up to 18 years. In case-control studies of the effects of breastfeeding on adult-onset diseases, questions about breastfeeding may be asked decades later. While prospective designs are preferable, they may not be feasible in some settings. It is therefore of interest to investigate the effect of recall bias on reported breastfeeding practices.

Recall bias is common among subjects interviewed about past events [4]. One might hypothesize that for breastfeeding, which often occurs at a time of stress and sleep deprivation, recall of past events might be especially prone to bias and/or imprecision. In addition, particularly in the U.S., social pressures to breastfeed might result in overestimates of breastfeeding time. We report here the results of a questionnaire about breastfeeding habits given every 3 weeks up to 12 weeks post-partum to breastfeeding women in the U.S., and given again at six months and at 1–3.5 years after the birth. Topics included the baby's age at weaning, reasons for cessation, breast pain, lactation mastitis, and pumping.

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