Date of Conferral





Public Health


Loretta Cain


The health benefits of breastfeeding exceed well beyond the first few years of an infant's life. Breast milk is often referred to as liquid gold because of its extensive protective properties that promote child growth and development. Unfortunately, African American women have the lowest breastfeeding rates compared to any other racial group. Given that African American children are disproportionately affected by the current obesity epidemic in the United States, there may be a link between a mother's preference to breastfeed her infant and her influence over her child's eating behaviors and physical activity levels. Guided by social cognitive theory, the purpose of this quantitative longitudinal study was to explore the association between exclusive breastfeeding and maternal control over childhood nutrition and physical activity among African American women and children enrolled in the Women Infants and Children Nutritional Supplementation Program (WIC). Secondary data were used from the Infant Feeding Practices II Survey and its Year 6 Follow Up. Crosstabulations were performed to assess the relationship between exclusive breastfeeding and maternal control over child health behaviors after 6 years. The null hypotheses were not rejected, as there was no relationship between exclusive breastfeeding and maternal control over physical activity or child eating behaviors. Findings revealed moderate to high levels of maternal control among WIC participants who breastfed for 3 months. This study may lead to positive social change by increasing the number of children who benefit from breast milk and improving childhood nutrition and physical activity, which will ultimately reduce child obesity disparities and promote maternal and child health altogether.