Purpose: To explore minority teen mothers' perceptions of breastfeeding and the influences on infant feeding choices.
Methods: A qualitative study using semistructured ethnographic interviews and focus groups involving 35 Latina and African-American girls in Chicago between the ages of 12 and 19 years who were primiparous and were currently pregnant or had delivered within the past 3 months.
Results: Adolescents identified three main influences on infant feeding decisions and practices: (a) their perceptions of the benefits of breastfeeding, (b) their perceptions of the problems with breastfeeding, and (c) influential people. In this study, teens reported no single influence which determined infant feeding choices. The decision to breastfeed was a dynamic process. Teens recognized that breastfeeding offered many benefits including facilitating maternal-child bonding and promoting the baby's health, but concern was raised regarding a potential for excessive attachment between teen mother and baby. Fear of pain, embarrassment with public exposure, and unease with the act of breastfeeding acted as barriers for teenagers who were considering breastfeeding. Teenagers discussed the breast pump as a strategy in dealing with these barriers. The adolescents' mothers continued to be an important influence.
Conclusions: The ranges of perceptions and influences that minority adolescent mothers have identified as affecting their infant feeding choices, illustrated and explained in the teens' own words, are helpful to health care providers as they counsel teen mothers about infant feeding options.