Predicting intentions to continue exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months: A comparison among racial/ethnic groups

Yeon Bai, Shahla M. Wunderlich, Alyce D. Fly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to explore how mothers of different races/ethnicities make decisions to continue exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) for 6 months under the Theory of Planned Behavior. Participants were recruited from hospitals and WIC clinics in Central Indiana and Southern New Jersey from 2008 to 2009. Mothers (N = 236: 93 non-Hispanic African American, 72 non-Hispanic white, 71 Hispanic/Latina) completed a self-administered questionnaire that measured theoretical constructs and beliefs related to their intention to practice EBF for 6 months. Intentions to continue EBF for 6 months were similar (P = 0.15) across racial/ethnic groups. Significant proportions of the intention (P < 0.001) were explained by the three theoretical constructs (attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control). The relative importance of each construct in predicting the intention varied by group. The most influential predictors (P < 0.001) were attitude for white mothers, subjective norm for African American mothers, and perceived behavioral control for Latina mothers. Latent beliefs strongly associated with attitude in white mothers were 'bonding with the baby' and 'easy feeding.' Beliefs held by family members and the general public contributed to the subjective norm of African American mothers. Perceived behavioral control in Latina mothers was highly correlated with 'pumping breast milk'. Development of policy and intervention programs that focus on shaping strong predictors and beliefs within racial/ethnic groups could reduce disparities in EBF rates and establish EBF for 6 months as a cultural norm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1257-1264
Number of pages8
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Beliefs
  • Exclusive breastfeeding
  • Racial/ethnic disparity
  • Theory of planned behavior


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