Understanding the Impact of Perceived Social Support for Breastfeeding Among African American Women: Results From the Mama Bear Feasibility Trial.

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American journal of health promotion


PURPOSE: Perceived Social Support (PSS) can impact breastfeeding behaviors, and a lack of PSS potentially contributes to disparities in breastfeeding rates for African American women (AA). Objectives were to describe PSS at two timepoints and test associations between PSS and breastfeeding intensity for AA.

METHODS: Data are from a feasibility trial of breastfeeding support among AA. The Hughes Breastfeeding Support Scale was used to measure PSS (Emotional, Informational, Tangible; total range = 30-120) in pregnancy (T1, n = 32) and early postpartum (T2, n = 31). Scale means were compared with t-tests. Associations between PSS at T1 and breastfeeding intensity (ie, quantitative measure of breastfeeding) were assessed with linear regression.

RESULTS: Total PSS (mean ± SE) was high at both time points (T1 = 90.5 ± 4.8; T2 = 92.8 ± 3.1). At T2, older participants or those living with a partner had higher total PSS scores compared to those younger or living alone. Emotional PSS was significantly higher at T2 than T1 with no differences in tangible or informational PSS over time. Mixed-feeding, exclusive breastfeeding, and exclusive formula feeding was distributed at 39%, 32%, and 29%, respectively. Total PSS was not associated with breastfeeding intensity.

CONCLUSION: Women reported high levels of social support, and emotional PSS increased over time in this small sample of AA. PSS and sources of PSS are understudied, especially among AA, and future studies should explore quantitative methods to assess PSS. The results of such assessments can then be used to design breastfeeding support interventions.

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Pregnancy; Female; Humans; Breast Feeding; Black or African American; Feasibility Studies; Postpartum Period; Social Support; Mothers

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