Newswise — 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.”
About Cincinnati Children’sCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of 10 children’s hospitals in the United States to make the Honor Roll in U.S. News and World Reports 2009-10 Americas Best Children’s Hospitals issue. It is #1 ranked for digestive disorders and is also highly ranked for its expertise in respiratory diseases, cancer, neonatal care, heart care, neurosurgery, diabetes, orthopedics, kidney disorders and urology. One of the three largest children’s hospitals in the U.S., Cincinnati Children’s is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health.
President Barack Obama in June 2009 cited Cincinnati Children’s as an island of excellence in health care. For its achievements in transforming health care, Cincinnati Children’s is one of six U.S. hospitals since 2002 to be awarded the American Hospital Association-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize for leadership and innovation in quality, safety and commitment to patient care. The hospital is a national and international referral center for complex cases. Additional information can be found at www.cincinnatichildrens.org.