Despite the benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and infants, disparities in breastfeeding initiation and maintenance exist, especially among adolescents. Preconception knowledge, exposure, and attitudes toward breastfeeding are associated with initiation of breastfeeding. However, little is understood about preconception breastfeeding knowledge and attitudes in adolescents. This study aimed to better understand breastfeeding knowledge and beliefs among non-pregnant adolescent females in Philadelphia to guide interventions aimed at increasing breastfeeding rates. This qualitative study utilized freelisting interviews to explore how adolescents perceive breastfeeding. Free listing interviews asked participants to list all words and thoughts that come to mind related to breastfeeding, followed by two prompts related to possible benefits and downsides of breastfeeding. Salience was calculated for each term from the free listing interviews. Open-ended responses from the additional prompts were sorted by theme. A total of 30 adolescents were interviewed. Analysis of the freelisting prompt revealed four salient terms: “baby”, “mom”, “milk”, “breast”. Responses from the benefits of breastfeeding prompt were grouped into seven themes; the most common theme related to health benefits for the infant. Responses from the downsides of breastfeeding prompt were grouped into 14 themes; the most common theme related to pain. Overall, the data illustrated that adolescents have a varied knowledge of breastfeeding, but their understanding appeared relatively superficial. These data raise concerns regarding adolescents’ expectations of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding initiation and maintenance are associated with better health outcomes for mothers and infants. However, barriers to breastfeeding initiation and maintenance exist, including unrealistic expectations about breastfeeding.
Eberts, Margaret, "Breastfeeding Knowledge, Attitudes, and Expectations Among Adolescents: A Qualitative Study" (2023). Master of Public Health Capstone Presentations. Presentation 497.