A Theoretical Examination and Study of Breastfeeding Intensity and Duration
AuthorPettis, Clare T.
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Breastfeeding benefits mothers, infants, and society. The United States government recommends that infants be fed breast milk only for the first six months and at least some breast milk for twelve months. The current research used the Health Belief Model (Rosenstock, 1974), Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) (Ajzen, 1985), theories of behavioral motivation (Hong, Chiu, Dweck, Lin, & Wan 1999), implementation intentions (Gollwitzer, 1999), and Behavior Affective Association Model (Kiviniemi, Voss-Humke, & Siefert, 2007) to examine why some women fail to sustain breastfeeding. Study 1 utilized an internet based survey completed by mothers whose first child was at least 12 months old and no older than six. Mothers responded to questions created to test the components of each theory and hierarchical regression analyses were used to test the applicability of each theory to breastfeeding duration and intensity. The TPB explained the most variance in breastfeeding behavior and perceived behavioral control was the strongest variable. Positive affective associations with breastfeeding and the behavioral motivation measure were also significantly related to breastfeeding behavior. The results of Study 1 were used to create two programs to encourage expectant mothers and fathers enrolled in infant nutrition classes at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Reno, NV to think about the benefits and barriers of breastfeeding and to pre-plan for the potential barriers they may face when breastfeeding. Participants were encouraged to view breastfeeding behavior as a learned behavior that requires practice (effort based). Results from both studies revealed relationships between breastfeeding behavior and significant other support and offered support for the inclusion of theories of behavioral motivation in the creation of infant nutrition programs. Results suggest that infant nutrition and lactation classes delivered to expectant parents should frame breastfeeding as an effortful behavior that requires practice and takes time to learn. Additionally, doctors, nurses and hospitals should follow the guidelines of their respective professional associations when discussing with and instructing parents about infant nutrition choices.