Racial and ethnic differences in breastfeeding

Chelsea O. McKinney*, Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook, P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Sharon L. Ramey, Julie Krohn, Maxine Reed-Vance, Tonse N.K. Raju, Madeleine U. Shalowitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: Breastfeeding rates differ among racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Our aim was to test whether racial/ethnic disparities in demographic characteristics, hospital use of infant formula, and family history of breastfeeding mediated racial/ethnic gaps in breastfeeding outcomes. METHODS: We analyzed data from the Community and Child Health Network study (N = 1636). Breastfeeding initiation, postnatal intent to breastfeed, and breastfeeding duration were assessed postpartum. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to estimate relative odds of breastfeeding initiation, postnatal intent, and duration among racial/ethnic groups and to test the candidate mediators of maternal age, income, household composition, employment, marital status, postpartum depression, preterm birth, smoking, belief that "breast is best, " family history of breastfeeding, in-hospital formula introduction, and WIC participation. RESULTS: Spanish-speaking Hispanic mothers were most likely to initiate (91%), intend (92%), and maintain (mean duration, 17.1 weeks) breastfeeding, followed by English-speaking Hispanic mothers (initiation 90%, intent 88%; mean duration, 10.4 weeks) and white mothers (initiation 78%, intent 77%; mean duration, 16.5 weeks); black mothers were least likely to initiate (61%), intend (57%), and maintain breastfeeding (mean duration, 6.4 weeks). Demographic variables fully mediated disparities between black and white mothers in intent and initiation, whereas demographic characteristics and in-hospital formula feeding fully mediated breastfeeding duration. Family breastfeeding history and demographic characteristics helped explain the higher breastfeeding rates of Hispanic mothers relative to white and black mothers. CONCLUSIONS: Hospitals and policy makers should limit in-hospital formula feeding and consider family history of breastfeeding and demographic characteristics to reduce racial/ ethnic breastfeeding disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20152388
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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