How Social, Cultural, and Economic Environments Shape Infant Feeding for Low-Income Women: A Qualitative Study in North Carolina
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BACKGROUND: This study focuses on the cultural, social, and economic factors that shape infant feeding practices among low-income mothers. OBJECTIVE: The objective was to understand factors that inhibit or facilitate breastfeeding practices of low-income mothers, including how they are linked to broader social, cultural, and economic processes. DESIGN: In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with women about their feeding practices and food environments, including their experiences with breastfeeding and formula feeding. PARTICIPANTS: The sample was comprised of 98 low-income mothers with at least one child between 2 and 9 years old at the time of interview. RESULTS: Sixteen mothers (16.7%) breastfed for 6 months, and six (6.3%) were still breastfeeding at 12 months. Only 11 mothers (11.5%) exclusively breastfed for 6 months. Women reported several factors influencing infant feeding: interactions with medical providers, work environments, shared living spaces and family supports, and concerns about supply and production. CONCLUSIONS: This research highlights the complex interplay of economic and social barriers that shape how and what low-income women feed their infants. The study contributes to a better understanding of the social, cultural, and economic constraints faced by women in poverty. To improve breastfeeding rates among low-income women, it is important to examine the impacts of poverty and food insecurity on infant feeding practices.
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