Center for Pediatric Nursing Research & Evidence-Based Practice


Diversity in breastfeeding social support: the lived experience of African American Christians in the New England region

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Nursing Research: Eastern Nursing Research Society

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Background: Breastfeeding exclusivity practice is suboptimal and beset with racial disparities in the United States. In 2018, only 19.8% of African American infants were exclusively breastfed through 6 months. Purpose: The breastfeeding experiences of African American Christians in the New England region were explored. Methods: We hosted an encrypted anonymous virtual mixed methods study in the Summer of 2021. The qualitative data were collected with an adapted semi-structured interview guide from Kamoun and Spatz (2018). Voluntary study participants were recruited from four denominations of African American Christians from the New England region. Data analysis was manual, based on Krippendorf’s content analysis, and themes were generated. Results: Participants (N = 101), 18-44 years (62.3%), college and graduate educated (71.4%), employed (84.2%), Catholic (71.4%) and had household sizes of five or less (91.7%). Three key themes which reflected the urgent need for balanced breastfeeding social support were identified. First, emotional support must be offered through encouragement and paternal support. Second, the institutionalization breastfeeding role models. Third, health promotion of breastfeeding through education, and organized programs on topics inclusive of what the Bible says about breastfeeding, physiology of lactation, management of breastfeeding problems, baby needs, and benefits of breastfeeding. Conclusion Implications: The findings show that African American Christian women will most likely breastfeed when empowered through the reported diverse forms of breastfeeding social support needs. Therefore, health professionals must recognize the expressed diverse forms of breastfeeding social support needs and collaborate with the Christian community leadership to favorably support, promote, and protect African American women’s 6 months exclusive breastfeeding practice in the United States. In the future, a longitudinal study focused on breastfeeding social support among African American Christians in the United States is warranted.


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