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Nicole I. Medina-Shewey is a 2015 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee

  • George Tremblay, PhD, Committee Chair
  • William Slammon, PhD, Committee Member
  • Cynthia Whitaker, PhD, Committee Member

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

The World Health Organization recommends babies be exclusively breastfed for at least six months. However, the Centers for Disease Control reported that only 18.8% of American mothers exclusively breastfed their children to six months in 2014. Past studies have indicated that Minority women breastfeed at rates lower than Caucasian women. The current study aimed to determine if perceived stigma associated with breastfeeding in public is a possible factor in this phenomenon. It utilized a hardcopy and online version of a survey that was distributed at Women Infant Children’s (WIC) offices in New Hampshire and online breastfeeding support groups. The sample size for the study was N= 238. A t-test found that Caucasian participants reported more perceived stigma than Minority participants (t (236) = 1.96 p = .05). A one-way ANOVA examined perceived stigma and racial/ethnic subgroups and did not yield significant results (F (6, 231) = .95, p = .46). Further, acculturation level did not predict higher perceived stigma scores: F (1,73) = 2.83, p = .10, with acculturation accounting for 4% percent of the variance in perceived stigma (R² = .04). Prior knowledge about breastfeeding, education level, and social supports were used as moderators for the relationship between race/ethnicity and perceived stigma. Moderated Multiple Regression did not yield statistically significant results for these analyses. Future research should examine the amount of knowledge health care professionals possess about breastfeeding as the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, which centers on health care professionals being knowledgeable about breastfeeding, is believed to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration. In addition, future researchers should examine the following as potentially stigmatizing factors among breastfeeding mothers: maternal/child skin tone, anxiety and maternal race/ethnicity, and the age of the child being breastfed. Psychologists who work with children and families are advised to include information on the benefits of breastfeeding in parenting skills oriented psychotherapies. In addition, third-wave Cognitive Behavioral Therapies are recommended for working with individual women experiencing stigma for breastfeeding in public. Finally, partnerships with outside health care professionals and breastfeeding support groups in the communities are also recommended to better support breastfeeding clients.

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ORCID author ID# : orcid.org/0000-0002-9676-5766

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