Prepregnancy body mass index, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity and breastfeeding practices

Panagiota Kitsantas 1 , Kathleen F. Gaffney 2  and Melanie L. Kornides 2
  • 1 Department of Health Administration and Policy, George Mason University College of Health and Human Services, Fairfax, VA, USA
  • 2 George Mason University College of Health and Human Services, School of Nursing, Fairfax, VA, USA


Objective: While socioeconomic status (SES) and race/ethnicity are known predictors of breastfeeding practices, the added disparity caused by the rising rates of obesity among women of childbearing age remains untested. The purpose of this study was to examine differences in breastfeeding initiation and duration among black, white and Hispanic women of low and middle SES within the context of prepregnancy body mass index (BMI).

Methods: Data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort were analyzed. Adjusted logistic regression models were built to examine differences in breastfeeding initiation and duration for the three racial/ethnic groups of low and middle SES.

Results: Normal BMI Hispanic women of low SES demonstrated higher rates of breastfeeding initiation (74%) compared to other groups. Overweight/obese black women of low SES had lower rates of breastfeeding initiation. Overweight/obese Hispanic women of middle SES were significantly less likely to continue breastfeeding up to 4 months (OR: 0.65, 95% CI: 0.41, 0.98) compared to their white counterparts. Among women who initiated breastfeeding, overweight/obese white women of low SES had the highest rate of stopping within two months of giving birth (66.7%).

Conclusions: Examination of SES and racial/ethnic differences within the context of prepregnancy weight revealed specific groups with low rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration. Interventions tailored for these at-risk groups are needed to increase the overall proportion of mothers and infants who benefit from the positive health outcomes associated with breastfeeding.

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