Reasons why women do not initiate breastfeeding: A southeastern state study

Womens Health Issues. Jul-Aug 2009;19(4):268-78. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2009.03.005.


Purpose: Despite the increase in breastfeeding initiation and duration in the United States, only five states have met the three Healthy People 2010 breastfeeding objectives. Our objectives are to study women's self-reported reasons for not initiating breastfeeding and to determine whether these reasons vary by race/ethnicity, and other maternal and hospital support characteristics.

Methods: Data are from the 2000-2003 Arkansas Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, restricting the sample to women who did not initiate breastfeeding (unweighted n=2,917). Reasons for not initiating breastfeeding are characterized as individual reasons, household responsibilities, and circumstances. Analyses include the chi(2) test and multiple logistic regression.

Results: About 38% of Arkansas mothers of live singletons did not initiate breastfeeding. There was a greater representation of non-Hispanic Blacks among those who did not initiate breastfeeding (32%) than among those who initiated breastfeeding (9.9%). Among those who never breastfed, individual reasons were most frequently cited for noninitiation (63.0%). After adjusting for covariates, Hispanics had three times the odds of citing circumstances than Whites (odds ratio [OR], 3.07; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.31-7.18). Women who indicated that the hospital staff did not teach them how to breastfeed had more than two times greater odds of citing individual reasons (OR, 2.25; 95% CI, 1.30-3.91) or reasons related to household responsibilities (OR, 2.27; 95% CI, 1.19-4.36) as compared with women who indicated they were taught.

Conclusions: Findings suggest the need for targeting breastfeeding interventions to different subgroups of women. In addition, there are implications for policy particularly regarding breastfeeding support in hospitals.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Arkansas
  • Breast Feeding / ethnology*
  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Personnel, Hospital
  • Social Responsibility
  • Young Adult