Understanding and Describing Infant Feeding Methods of African American Families

Investigator: Ifeyinwa V. Asiodu, PhD, RN, IBCLC
Sponsor: NIH National Institute of Nursing Research

Location(s): United States


The overall goal of this critical ethnographic research study is to describe infant feeding perceptions and experiences of African American mothers and their support persons. The specific aims are: 1) to describe and analyze the process African American mothers undergo when deciding on an infant feeding method; 2) to describe the barriers and facilitators encountered during this decision making process; and 3) to understand the role social support persons, such as grandmothers and fathers of the babies, play in the decision making process. Data will be collected through audiotaped, open-ended interviews and field observation of the mothers and support persons during the ante partum and postpartum periods. Data analysis will occur throughout the data collection process using ethnographic methodology. Additionally, this proposal addresses two NINR areas of research: 1) to identify and improve health disparities, specifically, infant feeding disparities in the African American community; and 2) identify facilitators and barriers associated with infant feeding decision making that promote health and prevent disease. The qualitative data gathered from this study will contribute to efforts aimed at improving breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates and provide a foundation for future research seeking to eliminate infant feeding disparities in the African American community. Furthermore, the results of this research will lead to the development of culturally sensitive breastfeeding promotion interventions that will improve the quality of life, healthcare services and education received by African American women and their infants. While breast milk is considered the gold standard of infant feeding, a majority of African American mothers are choosing not to breastfeed their newborn infants. With the highest rates of infant mortality, premature birth, low birth weight and very low birth weight; African American infants can benefit greatly from an increase in breastfeeding initiation and continuation. This research proposal seeks to understand and describe the infant feeding methods of African American mothers who successfully and unsuccessfully initiated breastfeeding; while investigating infant feeding perceptions and experiences of their support persons, specifically grandmothers and fathers of the babies. Understanding the barriers and facilitators to this decision making process experienced and managed by this population during the ante partum and postpartum periods, is imperative to developing effective breastfeeding initiation and continuation interventions that will improve the overall health and wellbeing of African American infants and women.