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Breastfeeding guidelines include exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and continued breastfeeding for two or more years given the considerable benefits for both the mother and infant. Adolescents are less likely to initiate and maintain breastfeeding compared to the national average. Targeted interventions could improve breastfeeding rates and ultimately reduce morbidity and mortality among adolescent mothers and their children. The objective of this study was to assess current knowledge and perspectives of non-pregnant adolescent females on breastfeeding and identify appropriate educational interventions.


We conducted in-depth interviews with 21 adolescent females. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using a directed content analysis approach, that is a codebook was developed through open coding and literature review. Codes were organized into thematic categories to inform an explanatory model.


Participants had varied levels of previous exposure and knowledge of breastfeeding with many participants reporting a lack of knowledge. Most participants thought it was important to provide early breastfeeding education. The two most commonly cited acceptable breastfeeding promotion educational interventions included incorporating breastfeeding into school curriculum and utilizing social media.


Providing breastfeeding education to adolescents could improve breastfeeding rates in adolescents and the associated healthcare disparities. In addition, it is an upstream approach to provide breastfeeding education long before a person considers having children. Formal education and social media were both found to be acceptable opportunities to provide breastfeeding education. With social media being a particularly influential source for health-related information.


Breastfeeding provides benefits to both the mother and infant. However, adolescent mothers are less likely to initiate and maintain breastfeeding, contributing to health disparities. We found that non-pregnant adolescents had limited knowledge of breastfeeding but were open to learning more. In addition, adolescents acknowledged the benefit of providing breastfeeding education to their age group mainly through school curriculum and social media.

Lay Abstract

Breastfeeding provides many benefits to both the mother and infant. Therefore, it is recommended that mothers feed their infant only through breastfeeding for 6 months and continue to breastfeed until the infant is at least two years old. When adolescent become pregnant they are less likely to start and continue breastfeeding compared to adults. This leads to health disparities. Therefore, if we can improve breastfeeding among adolescent mothers we could improve the health of both the mothers and their children. This study assessed current understanding and opinions of non-pregnant adolescent females on breastfeeding to identify methods to provide breastfeeding education for adolescents. We interviewed 21 adolescent females. We reviewed each interview transcript and identified common themes. We found that most of the adolescents didn’t have much prior understanding or experience but varied greatly among each person. Many of the adolescents thought it was important to learn about breastfeeding during middle or high school, and they recommended including education about breastfeeding in school or on TikTok. Providing breastfeeding education to adolescents could improve breastfeeding practices in adolescents and address health disparities. In addition, by providing education early, it may influence breastfeeding practices long-term once the adolescents age into adulthood and have their own children.