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Breastfeeding Behaviors and Experiences of Adolescent Mothers


MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: March-April 2006 - Volume 31 - Issue 2 - p 106-113
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Purpose: To examine the breastfeeding experiences and related behaviors of adolescent mothers after discharge from the hospital.

Study Design and Methods: Descriptive telephone survey with both open-and closed-ended questions. Outcome variables included breastfeeding experiences and infant feeding practices. A convenience sample of mothers (N = 53), ranging in age from 14 to 19 years, were interviewed by telephone 5 months to 2 years postdelivery.

Results: Over one half (60.3%) of the adolescent mothers breastfed for 2 months or longer (average 3.15 months), only 22.6% breastfed for 6 months or more, and 39.6% breastfed for 1 month or less. Friends, families, and healthcare professionals were supportive of breastfeeding, but participants found prenatal and postpartum education about breastfeeding to be limited. Many indicated that they were not plainly informed about the superiority of breast milk and the health advantages of breastfeeding. One mother stated, “They just asked if I wanted to bottle or breastfeed and didn’t tell me about the benefits of breastfeeding.”

Clinical Implications: Nurses and physicians who provide care for childbearing women need to promote breastfeeding among adolescents in a better way. Prenatal anticipatory guidance related to the physical aspects of breastfeeding, support after adolescent mothers are discharged from the hospital, and advocacy for breastfeeding in the school and workplace setting are warranted. Nurses should consider establishing postpartum education programs for breastfeeding adolescents, for almost all of the participants in this study expressed the need for more postnatal breastfeeding support as indicated by this representative statement:“I think that it would help you to be able to breastfeed if nurses could phone call you more than just once; my baby latched on good in the hospital; I had trouble later after we went home.”

Dr. Spear examined why some adolescent mothers choose to breastfeed. Her findings can help you to help your adolescent patients.

Hila J. Spear is a Professor of Nursing, Director, Graduate Studies, Department of Nursing, Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. She can be reached via e-mail at

The author has no conflict of interest, financial or otherwise, with any organizations cited in this article.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.