Understanding Factors Influencing Breastfeeding Outcomes in a Sample of African American Women

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Maternal and child health journal


OBJECTIVES: Persistent disparities in breastfeeding rates among African American (AA) women compared to other population groups have motivated researchers to understand factors influencing breastfeeding choices using a variety of methods. Quantitative surveys are more commonly reported, however, qualitative work that amplifies voices of AA women is limited.

METHODS: Participants were recruited from a randomized controlled feasibility trial focused on breastfeeding support for AA women in Detroit, MI. Thirteen women were enrolled in the qualitative portion of the study described here. Using the Socioecological model (SEM) as the theoretical foundation, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted to explore perceived facilitators and barriers to breastfeeding. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using Theoretical thematic analysis.

RESULTS: Women reported factors ranging from micro to macro SEM levels that discouraged or reinforced breastfeeding. Key challenges included breastfeeding-related discouragement issues, including factors that decreased confidence and led women to terminate breastfeeding (e.g., problems with latching, pumping, lack of comfort with breastfeeding in public, and work constraints). Facilitators included perceived mother and infant benefits, perseverance/commitment/self-motivation, pumping ability, and social support. Participant suggestions for expanding breastfeeding promotion and support included: (1) tangible, immediate, and proactive support; (2) positive non-judgmental support; (3) "milk supply" and "use of pump" education; and (4) self-motivation/willpower/perseverance.

CONCLUSIONS FOR PRACTICE: Despite the identification of common facilitators, findings reveal AA women face many obstacles to meeting breastfeeding recommendations. Collaborative discussions between women and healthcare providers focused on suggestions provided by AA women should be encouraged.

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ePub ahead of print