Breastfeeding Exposure, Attitudes, and Intentions of African American and Caucasian College Students

J Hum Lact. 2017 Feb;33(1):149-156. doi: 10.1177/0890334416679384. Epub 2016 Dec 20.


Background: African American mothers lag behind in breastfeeding initiation. Research is needed to gain an understanding of potential reasons for breastfeeding disparities. Research aim: This study explored breastfeeding exposure, attitudes, and intentions of African American and Caucasian college students by race and gender.

Methods: Women and men (696) attending college, who were younger than 45 years and without children, were included in this study. Survey data were collected using a demographic questionnaire and the Iowa Infant Feeding Attitude Scale.

Results: Overall, students demonstrated favorable attitudes regarding breastfeeding but viewed formula feeding as more practical. Students who were Caucasian and female and experienced breastfeeding exposure demonstrated higher breastfeeding attitudes and intent. Breastfeeding exposure and attitudes contributed 32% of the variance in breastfeeding intentions. The odds of experiencing breastfeeding exposure and positive breastfeeding attitudes were approximately 3 times higher for Caucasian students than for African American students.

Conclusion: External factors demonstrated a stronger association with breastfeeding intentions. The link with race and gender appears to operate through their effect on attitudes and exposure. More research is needed to identify strategies to improve breastfeeding exposure and attitudes among African Americans.

Keywords: African Americans; breastfeeding; breastfeeding rates; health status disparities; human milk.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / ethnology
  • African Americans / psychology
  • Breast Feeding / psychology
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / ethnology
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Missouri / ethnology
  • Mothers / education
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities / organization & administration