Exploring the barriers to exclusive breastfeeding in black and minority ethnic groups and young mothers in the UK

Matern Child Nutr. 2008 Jul;4(3):171-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2007.00129.x.


UK health policy for many years has been to increase rates of breastfeeding because of the health benefits conferred on mothers and babies. World Health Organization recommends that babies should be breastfed exclusively for 6 months (without water or other fluids) and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence promotes the provision of peer supporters or breastfeeding support groups to increase breastfeeding rates. This study aimed to explore the barriers to exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months with black and minority ethnic groups and with young mothers, and the strategies for overcoming these barriers, including peer support. Twenty-two mothers from Somali, Afro-Caribbean and South Asian communities or young mothers groups attended five focus groups. Transcripts were analysed using thematic and framework methods. There was enthusiasm for breastfeeding support groups, but with a wider remit to discuss other baby-related issues and provide general social support as well as support for breastfeeding. The Somali and South Asian women preferred the groups to be for their ethnic group, Afro-Caribbean women were keen that they should be open to all cultures and young mothers would like groups for their peers only. Encouraging mothers to breastfeed exclusively to 6 months should be promoted more and emphasized by health professionals when supporting women post-natally, and good support with breastfeeding management should be given to enable mothers to achieve this goal. Breastfeeding support groups may play a part in increasing breastfeeding continuation of breastfeeding, but for the groups studied this was not the greatest influence, with families and older women in the community having more influence in changing practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Blacks / psychology
  • Breast Feeding / epidemiology
  • Breast Feeding / ethnology*
  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Marital Status
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Peer Group
  • Social Support*
  • United Kingdom