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Breastfeeding Concerns and Experiences of African American Mothers

Cottrell, Barbara H. MSN, RN; Detman, Linda A. PhD

MCN, American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing: September/October 2013 - Volume 38 - Issue 5 - p 297–304
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0b013e31829a5606

Objective: To explore the perinatal experiences of African American women in Florida for obtaining information about breastfeeding and also their breastfeeding experiences.

Methods: This qualitative study utilized convenience sampling of 253 African American women 18 to 35 years old in three Florida counties. Data were derived from the Healthy Futures Perinatal Research and System Design study. One month after giving birth, face-to face interviews were conducted using an interview schedule. Questions about breastfeeding education and experiences were explored. Taped responses were transcribed and analyzed qualitatively. Through subject-level content analysis, key themes were identified.

Results: Most women received some information about breastfeeding during prenatal care. Mothers who chose to breastfeed were usually aware of some of the benefits for the baby and occasionally benefits for themselves. Mothers who did not breastfeed were concerned about pain associated with breastfeeding, time constraints, returning to work or school, personal health choices, or felt uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding. Factors facilitating breastfeeding included healthcare providers that encouraged the practice, knowing the advantages, attending a breastfeeding class or support group, breastfeeding in the birth or recovery room, latch assistance, rooming-in, nesting, and the availability of a breast pump. Reasons for supplementation and cessation were latch problems, pain, concerns the baby wasn't getting enough, mother–infant separation, and medical complications.

Implications: Intensified prenatal and postpartum efforts to support breastfeeding are needed to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration for African American mothers.

As we attempt to increase the numbers of women who breastfeed initially and then continue to do so, these nurses give us the particulars on why some women do, and why they don't.

Barbara H. Cottrell is an Associate Professor with the Florida State University College of Nursing, Tallahassee, FL. Linda A. Detman is with Lawton & Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL. She can be reached by email at

Linda Detman is a Research Associate at the Lawton & Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies, College of Public Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida. She can be reached by email at

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.