Abstract

Breastfeeding provides both short- and long-term health benefits for infants and mothers, yet African American mothers are less likely to breastfeed than mothers of other racial backgrounds. Despite the optimal positioning of healthcare providers to encourage breastfeeding, African American mothers are more susceptible to inadequate breastfeeding support from providers than White mothers. Focusing only on mothers who breastfed, this study analyzes African American mothers' experiences with healthcare providers related to breastfeeding. Data consist of in-depth interviews with 22 primarily middle- and working-class African American mothers who breastfed. The interviews focused on decisions to breastfeed and support or assistance from healthcare providers. Data were analyzed thematically using initial and focused coding. During prepartum, 27% of the mothers' providers asked about breastfeeding decisions without further discussion, which resulted in some mothers seeking out their own research. This finding reveals the prepartum period as a critical point where more breastfeeding education can be implemented. During immediate postpartum, 59% of mothers received formula from the hospital, which resulted in either anger or indifference. Angry mothers stressed this as an obstacle to their breastfeeding goals. In addition to the other breastfeeding barriers African American mothers face, they faced the additional barrier of the provision of formula in this study. Also, in the postpartum period, of the fifteen mothers in contact with healthcare providers regarding breastfeeding, twelve mothers sought breastfeeding assistance from professional lactation consultants rather than regular providers. These findings point to the significance of lactation consultants in breastfeeding support. Future interventions could focus on the implementation of lactation consultants to the standard healthcare team. Questions remain regarding the extent to which these experiences reflect racial bias in healthcare settings. Regardless, our findings point to a need for greater breastfeeding support for African American women in maternity care settings, especially during the postpartum period.

Thesis Completion

2021

Semester

Spring

Thesis Chair

Carter, Shannon

Degree

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

College

College of Sciences

Department

Sociology

Language

English

Access Status

Campus Access

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Release Date

5-1-2026

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