African-American mothers breast-feed their children at lower rates than Caucasian, Latina and Asian mothers. This difference often has been attributed to socio-demographic factors such as age, income, education and personal experience with breast-feeding. Now, a researcher at the University of Missouri has discovered that African-American college students are aware of the benefits of breast-feeding for infants, yet some still are hesitant about breast-feeding future children. Evidence revealed a lack of public acceptance toward breast-feeding may influence this hesitation.
"We need to start early with our breast-feeding education and exposure because women decide before they have children whether or not they will breast-feed," Urmeka Jefferson, assistant professor at the Sinclair School of Nursing, said. "We need to figure out how to encourage positive breast-feeding attitudes among young Black women and make them aware that breast-feeding is the normal, natural infant-feeding method."
Jefferson surveyed African-American college students about their attitudes and exposure to breast-feeding and their intent to breast-feed future children. She found the majority of students knew the benefits of breast-feeding and had some level of previous exposure, such as friends or parents who had breast-fed their infants. Despite their knowledge of the benefits of breast-feeding, many students felt formula-feeding was more convenient and a better choice if the mother worked outside the home. The overwhelming majority of students surveyed also expressed discomfort at the idea of breast-feeding in public places, such as a restaurant. Jefferson concluded that this discomfort may have less to do with racial or socio-demographic disparities and more to do with social stigmas against breast-feeding.