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Study: Access to breastfeeding education affects feeding choices among Chinese-American mothers

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A recent study led by a Michigan State University College of Nursing researcher found a lack of available prenatal breastfeeding education led Chinese-American women to introduce other unnecessary liquids to their babies during the first six months of development.

Dr. Joanne Goldbort, an assistant professor in the college, studied what factors went into a woman’s decision to exclusively breastfeed, which is where a mother does not introduce liquids other than breast milk to the baby for the first six months. The study was a cross-sectional survey recruiting 210 pregnant Chinese-American women across the United States that measured three variables affecting whether a mother chose to breastfeed exclusively: Use of complementary foods, knowledge about colostrum, and attitude toward use of formula.

“The more information a woman has prenatally, the more influence it will have on her feeding decisions when she has her baby,” Goldbort said. “We discovered women who received information about breastfeeding had a more positive attitude toward exclusive breastfeeding.”

The study found a large percentage of women reported not receiving any information on breastfeeding, and an even lower percentage on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and colostrum, the latter of which is the nutrients- and antibodies-rich “liquid gold” present immediately after birth.

“Chinese-American moms didn’t know colostrum was essential, so they were introducing other liquids such as formula or sugar water, which is a problem,” Goldbort noted. “Breastfeeding gives benefits both to the baby and to the mother.”

Goldbort suggests that it’s up to healthcare providers to ensure that mothers are given the proper education on breastfeeding before birth.

“Our results suggest a missed opportunity for healthcare providers to communicate the value of sustained exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant's life,” Goldbort said. “The need is for prenatal information in all aspects of breastfeeding. This creates an opportunity and a challenge for healthcare providers. Healthcare providers are in the position to proactively engage in maternal preparedness for exclusive breastfeeding.”

The study, titled “Promoting Sustained and Exclusive Breastfeeding Among Chinese American Pregnant Women,” was recently published in the Journal of Health Communication. Goldbort worked alongside Dr. Mary Bresnahan, professor in the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences; Elizabeth Bogdin-Lovis, assistant director of the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences in the MSU College of Human Medicine; Dr. Jie Zhang, an assistant professor in the Texas Christian University College of Communication; and Xioudi Yan, a Ph.D. student in the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences.