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An Investigation of the Factors Influencing Breastfeeding Patterns

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Publication Date: May 2004

Publisher(s): Pardee Rand Graduate School

Author(s): Alison Jacknowitz

Topic: Health (Health promotion)

Type: Report


A growing body of research indicates that both mothers and children benefit from breastfeeding. However, despite slowly rising breastfeeding rates, a large fraction of mothers do not breastfeed or breastfeed for a shorter period than the recommended six months. Furthermore, some groups of mothers are more likely to breastfeed than others. This dissertation seeks to understand these breastfeeding patterns by investigating demographic changes, welfare work requirements, and workplace characteristics. Among the results: Changes in the composition of births by maternal age, maternal education, race/ethnicity, parity, and geographic location of birth explain seem to explain approximately 20 percent of the increasing trends in initial breastfeeding rates and breastfeeding rates six months after birth. In the absence of welfare reform, the national breastfeeding rate six months after birth would have been 5.5 percent higher in 2000. Such unintended negative consequences of these welfare work requirements must be weighed against potential benefits as states refine their welfare programs. The availability of employer-sponsored child care increases the likelihood of breastfeeding six months after birth by 59 percent. Working an additional eight hours at home per week increases the probability of breastfeeding by 9 and 21 percent at birth and six months after birth, respectively. Workplace characteristics show promise to effectively increase breastfeeding rates among working women and warrant additional consideration.