Objectives: Southeast Arkansas is a primarily rural, low-income area with low breastfeeding rates. Given the demonstrated positive impacts of breastfeeding on a variety of health indicators, it is important to understand and counteract this situation.
Methods: We reviewed the medical records of 1,260 women who delivered infants at the only major hospital in southeastern Arkansas between February 1997 and January 1998 to determine the rate of breastfeeding initiation and to assess associated factors.
Results: Only 18% of mothers initiated breastfeeding. Black mothers, unmarried mothers, and those with less than high school education were least likely to breastfeed. Participation in childbirth education classes was positively associated with breastfeeding, but participation in the Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children, health care provider, and hospital variables were not predictive in multivariate models.
Conclusions: Breastfeeding promotion programs are clearly needed in this region, and health care providers and the Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children can play significant roles.