Mediators of racial and ethnic disparity in mother's own milk feeding in very low birth weight infants

Pediatr Res. 2019 Apr;85(5):662-670. doi: 10.1038/s41390-019-0290-2. Epub 2019 Jan 18.


Background: Despite high initiation rates for mother's own milk (MOM) provision, MOM feeding at discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) drops precipitously and reveals a racial/ethnic disparity. This study sought to identify factors that (1) predict MOM feeding at NICU discharge, and (2) mediate racial/ethnic disparity in MOM feeding at discharge.

Methods: Secondary analysis of prospective cohort study of 415 mothers and their very low birth weight infants. Variables were grouped into five categories (demographics, neighborhood structural, social, maternal health, and MOM pumping). Significant predictors from each category were entered into a multivariable logistic regression model.

Results: Although 97.6% of infants received MOM feedings, black infants were significantly less likely to receive MOM feeding at discharge. Positive predictors were daily pumping frequency, reaching pumped MOM volume ≥500 mL/day by 14 days, and maternal age. Negative predictors were low socioeconomic status (SES) and perceived breastfeeding support from the infant's maternal grandmother. Low SES, maternal age, and daily pumping frequency mediated the racial/ethnic differences.

Conclusions: Multiple potentially modifiable factors predict MOM feeding at NICU discharge. Importantly, low SES, pumping frequency, and maternal age were identified as the mediators of racial and ethnic disparity. Strategies to mitigate the effects of modifiable factors should be developed and evaluated in future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / ethnology*
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Milk, Human*
  • Mothers
  • Patient Discharge
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Class
  • Social Support*
  • Young Adult