Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Nutrition and Food Science

Department

Nutrition and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Geoffrey W. Greene

Abstract

Despite the widely documented health benefits of breastfeeding, breastfeeding rates continue to fall short of Healthy People 2020 Objectives, particularly among women enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The amount of formula supplied by WIC often is insufficient to fully cover the infant’s demands, thus mothers need to purchase extra cans of formula in addition to what is provided by the WIC Program. However, prior to deciding whether to breastfeed or formula feed their infants, mothers may not be aware of the amount spent monthly on the purchase of extra formula. This information is not currently presented in WIC educational materials. This study assessed these costs, investigated mothers’ perceptions of these costs, and assessed mothers’ opinions about whether providing information about costs would influence their decision to breastfeed.

This research utilized a two-phase descriptive design. A total of 30 non-breastfeeding WIC mothers were asked to take a survey in Phase I, to assess their cost buying extra cans of formula, and total of 14 pregnant WIC women were interviewed in Phase II to assess their perceptions about the cost and opinions about breastfeeding educational material.

It was found in Phase I that non-breastfeeding mothers enrolled in the WIC program were spending on average $50 per month on extra cans of formula by the time their children were 4 months of age. This cost was perceived by majority of participating mothers as high. However, for mothers that intended to formula feed, information on cost did not appear to influence their decision to breastfeed. For breastfeeding mothers, the cost information was considered to be motivating. Medical issues, pain, physical appearance, employment constraints, comfort level, and inconvenience were reasons given by mothers for choosing to bottle feed.

Information on supplemental formula cost could be provided in breastfeeding support materials used in WIC programs prenatally and post-partum as an additional motivational tool to women that intend to breastfeed. Further research could investigate if this information would support breastfeeding initiation and increase duration among WIC mothers. Future qualitative work should be done to explore ways of incorporating breastfeeding into the lifestyle of mothers that intend to bottle feed, to demystify pre-conceptualized ideas about breastfeeding, and investigate if incorporating this information into educational materials would increase breastfeeding initiation among WIC mothers.

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