Low-income mothers' views on breastfeeding

Nurit Guttman*, Deena R. Zimmerman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nourishing infants presents women today with choices, desires, obligations and constraints. Despite mounting evidence about the health, psychosocial and societal benefits of breastfeeding both for women and infants, current breastfeeding rates worldwide are far from optimal, particularly among low-income women. Many mothers choose to use infant formula. Drawing from structured interviews with 154 mothers from an urban low-income multiethnic population in the United States, a typology of mothers' feelings about their infant feeding method is developed. Findings indicate that regardless of their feeding method, mothers tended to attribute higher health benefits to breastfeeding and perceived community norms as probreastfeeding. They differed in their rating and perceptions of logistics and the extent to which benefits mattered in their infant-feeding decision. Contradictions associated with the practice of breastfeeding even among mothers who breastfed, were reflected in their perceptions of social disapproval of breastfeeding in public, reports of ridicule by friends, lack of support from some health providers, and difficulties associated with working. A typology of mothers' emotional states resulting from such contradictions summarizes the findings and underscores how some mothers who did not, but would have liked to breastfeed, may be subjected to feelings of guilt and deprivation. Implications for educational interventions are to amplify prenatal infant feeding consultations and address ways to overcome logistical and apprehension barriers. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1457-1473
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 16 May 2000


  • Breastfeeding
  • Low-income mothers
  • USA


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