Social Support and Breastfeeding Outcomes Among a Racially and Ethnically Diverse Population

Am J Prev Med. 2023 Mar;64(3):352-360. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2022.10.002. Epub 2022 Nov 30.


Introduction: Social support is a modifiable social determinant of health that shapes breastfeeding outcomes and may contribute to racial and ethnic breastfeeding disparities. This study characterizes the relationship between social support and early breastfeeding.

Methods: This is a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data collected in 2019-2021 for an RCT. Social support was measured using the Enhancing Recovery in Coronary Heart Disease Social Support Instrument. Outcomes, collected by self-report, included (1) early breastfeeding within the first 21 days of life, (2) planned breastfeeding duration, and (3) confidence in meeting breastfeeding goals. Each outcome was modeled using proportional odds regression, adjusting for covariates. Analysis was conducted in 2021-2022.

Results: Self-reported race and ethnicity among 883 mothers were 50% Hispanic, 17% Black, 23% White, and 10% other. A large proportion (88%) of mothers were breastfeeding. Most breastfeeding mothers (82%) planned to breastfeed for at least 6 months, with more than half (58%) planning to continue for 12 months or more. Most women (65%) were confident or very confident in meeting their breastfeeding duration goal. In adjusted models, perceived social support was associated with planned breastfeeding duration (p=0.042) but not with early breastfeeding (p=0.873) or confidence in meeting breastfeeding goals (p=0.427). Among the covariates, maternal depressive symptoms were associated with lower breastfeeding confidence (p<0.001).

Conclusions: The associations between perceived social support and breastfeeding outcomes are nuanced. In this sample of racially and ethnically diverse mothers, social support was associated with longer planned breastfeeding duration but not with early breastfeeding or breastfeeding confidence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mothers*
  • Social Support