Date of Conferral





Public Health


Cheryl L. Anderson


Prior research has shown that African Americans are less likely than are Hispanics and Whites to breastfeed their children. Compounding this problem is the scarcity of research that examines African American's culture, perceptions, and beliefs about breastfeeding. This study was conducted to gain a greater understanding of the phenomenon of breastfeeding through the perspectives of African American mothers. Guided by the theories of reasoned action and planned behavior, this ethnographic study elicited African American mothers' perspectives on breastfeeding by examining what influenced their decision to breastfeed or not. This study took place in Washington State. Ten women recruited through purposeful sampling took part in the study. Data were largely collected through interviews utilizing open-ended semi-structured questions, which were used as the level-1 priori codes for data analysis. Inductive codes were developed from additional information provided by subjects during interviews. Sublevels were developed as needed. Codes with 2 or more responses from subjects were utilized in the analysis. Findings were based on the data and solely on the experiences and information shared by the subjects. The findings revealed that, among this sample of women, breastfeeding figured prominently in the African American culture. Most participants indicated they would breastfeed regardless of any support. Barriers to breastfeeding included the stigma that only the poor breastfeed, perceived inconsistency in information and assistance provided by health care personnel to African Americans as compared to other groups, and mothers not being aware of available resources. These results can be used to enhance social change initiatives, laws, and policies on breastfeeding for African Americans.