Background: Despite reported differences in breastfeeding rates amongst women of different ethnic groups, little research has investigated whether the thoughts and feelings (social cognitions) of women from these different groups during pregnancy influence their later breastfeeding behaviour.
Objective: This study investigates the extent to which social cognitions (based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour; TPB) predict differences in breastfeeding intentions, initiation, and maintenance between White British (WB) and South Asian (SA) women.
Design and methods: Two hundred and fifty women (predominantly WB or SA) in the last trimester of pregnancy completed a questionnaire based on the TPB. The women were followed up 6 months later and their breastfeeding during the previous 6 months was recorded.
Results: The TPB predicted significant variance in breastfeeding across the sample and was able to account for differences between SA and WB women. Affective attitudes (emotional reactions to breastfeeding) and moral norms (reactions about whether breastfeeding is right or wrong) were the strongest predictors of intentions. Intentions and affective attitudes were predictive of breastfeeding initiation, whilst only affective attitudes were predictive of breastfeeding maintenance.
Conclusion: Stronger intentions to breastfeed led to higher rates of breastfeeding amongst SA women. In turn, intentions were predicted by emotional and moral beliefs about breastfeeding, beliefs that were less positive amongst a WB sample. This suggests that those tasked with encouraging breastfeeding may need to have a different conversation with women about breastfeeding that goes beyond a focus on costs and benefits.
©2012 The British Psychological Society.