Theory-based antecedents of breastfeeding among pregnant women in the United States

Health Promot Perspect. 2024 Mar 14;14(1):70-79. doi: 10.34172/hpp.42599. eCollection 2024 Mar.


Background: Breastfeeding provides several positive health benefits for the newborn child, yet breastfeeding rates remain low in the United States (US). Theory-based approaches have the potential to improve breastfeeding promotion interventions. Hence, the study examined the correlates of intention to breastfeed among US pregnant women based on the multi-theory model (MTM) of health behavior change.

Methods: Using a cross-sectional design, a 36-item online survey was administered to a nationally representative sample of 315 pregnant women in the US. The instrument was psychometrically validated for face, content, and construct validity by a panel of six experts over two rounds. Further, construct validation was done by confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Hierarchical regression modeling was employed to explain the intention to start breastfeeding and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months and with complementary foods for up to 24 months.

Results: Internal consistency using Cronbach's alpha was found to be acceptable. It was found that behavioral confidence and changes in the physical environment positively affected the initiation of breastfeeding (P<0.01; adjusted R2=0.478). All three constructs of MTM namely practice for change, emotional transformation, and changes in the social environment were significant predictors for the sustenance of breastfeeding at six months (P<0.01; adjusted R2=0.591) and at 24 months (P<0.01; adjusted R2=0.347).

Conclusion: Based on the findings of this study it is essential for educators and healthcare providers to design MTM-based interventions to promote breastfeeding among pregnant women in the US.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; Maternal health; Newborn.

Grants and funding

This study was supported by UNLV PG03008.