Social Health Care Determinants of Breastfeeding Black Women: A Multigenerational Study

Breastfeed Med. 2022 Aug;17(8):666-672. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2021.0258.


Background: Black women encounter many challenges to breastfeeding, including inequitable access to support and resources and medical racism. However, limited research investigates how Black women across generations interface with health care systems to initiate or continue breastfeeding and what factors facilitate or hinder their breastfeeding experiences. Objective: Using the social determinants of health (SDoH) theoretical framework, this study qualitatively explored how a multigenerational sample of Black mothers' interactions with health care systems facilitated or hindered their breastfeeding initiation and continuation. There were three areas of interest: (1) access and quality, (2) professional and personal support, and (3) literacy and resources. Materials and Methods: Four age cohorts and three breastfeeding length cohorts of Black mothers in Kentucky completed semi-structured interviews on their breastfeeding experiences. Responses to research questions (e.g., "What was your experience during the birthing process and how did it impact your decision to breastfeed?") informed by the SDoH were analyzed using thematic analysis. Results: Four themes emerged on how experiences within health care systems influence Black women's breastfeeding initiation and continuation: (1) health care access, (2) health care quality/bias, (3) health care-related support, and (4) health care resource use. Conclusions: Interpersonal and systemic barriers in health care related to access, quality, support, and resources hindered Black mother's breastfeeding across generations. Mothers across each age and breastfeeding cohorts emphasized a need for culturally tailored pro-breastfeeding health care systems to meet their breastfeeding needs.

Keywords: Black women; breastfeeding; health care; social determinants of health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Black People
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Female
  • Health Facilities
  • Humans
  • Mothers*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Support