International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Breastfeeding and Low Income Women: An Ecological Assessment
J.M. Stolzer

The Surgeon General of the United States (2011) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (2005) have stated unequivocally that breastfeeding is the optimal method of feeding and nurturing children. Decades of scientific literature has indicated that breastfeeding decreases child morbidity and mortality rates, improves maternal health outcomes, provides economic benefits to the family, decreases national health care costs, increases mother-child attachment, and positively impacts society as a whole (United States Department of Health and Human Services-HHS 2011: American Academy of Pediatrics,-AAP,2005) Although breastfeeding promotion and support are defined as integral components of the federally funded Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, breastfeeding initiation and duration rates are disproportionately low among WIC participants (Ryan & Zhou, 2006). Since the inception of the American WIC program in the early 1970’s, breastfeeding promotion has been a stated goal of the WIC program, yet according to published reports, only 0.6% of the annual WIC budget is spent on promoting breastfeeding for low income women (Ryan & Zhou, 2006). The medical literature indicates that breastfeeding is an essential component of infant and maternal health, and that increasing breastfeeding rates across diverse populations would substantially impact maternal, pediatric, and societal functioning (AAP, 2005). The Surgeon General of the United States (2011) has called upon researchers to identify specific factors that have the potential to increase breastfeeding rates among disadvantaged populations and has urged the scientific community to develop strategies that support and encourage the breastfeeding dyad. In the pilot study presented here, a likert scaled survey derived from the Surgeon General’s “Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding” was administered to 106 low income women participating in the WIC program in a Midwestern State. The purpose of this study was to identify what factors influenced low income women’s decision to breastfeed. Although previous research has indicated that a myriad of factors are correlated with maternal feeding decisions, data from this study indicated that having access to breastfeeding role models significantly increases breastfeeding rates among low income women participating in the federally funded WIC program.

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