African American women are less likely to breastfeed their children, in
part due to the preconceived attitudes that women have regarding
breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, according to a new study from
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center researchers.
The study, which included prenatal patients from University of California Davis Medical Center, is currently published in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine, focused on thoughts and behaviors that could be modified to encourage breastfeeding in African American women.
Approximately 60 percent of African-American infants born in 2006 were ever breastfed, compared to approximately 77 percent of white, non-Hispanic children born in the same year. According to the World Health Organization, a woman should exclusively breastfeed her baby during his or her first six months of life.
Lead author of the study, Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, PhD, RD, Department of Neonatology & Pulmonary Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, explained that the study was the first that focused on formula feeding and breastfeeding attitudes that could be changed in efforts to help a mother breastfeed.
The study concentrated on African American; white, non-Hispanic; Hispanic; Asian pregnant women's intentions to breastfeed. After comparing the ethnic groups, there was a significant difference in breastfeeding intentions between African American women and all other races.
African American women were just as likely as women of other ethnicities to be comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding their baby. However, they were far more comfortable with the idea of formula feeding their baby as compared to women of other ethnicities, and it was greater comfort with formula use that explained differences in breastfeeding plans.
"The study results tell us that public health campaigns to promote breastfeeding must also include messages regarding the risks of formula feeding. For example, we know that formula fed infants, even here in the U.S., are twice as likely to suffer an ear infection and 2-3 times more likely to develop gastroenteritis as compared to exclusively breastfed infants," Dr. Nommsen-Rivers said.
Dr. Nommsen-Rivers said she and her colleagues at Cincinnati Children's will continue to research disparities in women's breastfeeding practices. "We are committed to learning more about what influences women's understanding of the risks of formula feeding, because this is a key part of improving breastfeeding practices and therefore, infant health, for some of our most vulnerable newborns."
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center