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South Med J. 2001 Mar;94(3):293-6.

Effect of literacy on breast-feeding outcomes.

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Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque 87131, USA.



We studied the effect of functional health literacy on the initiation and continuance of breast-feeding in women at a public health clinic.


Subjects were 61 first-time mothers aged 18 years or older who spoke English as their first language. They were divided into two groups, one who exclusively breast-fed for at least the first 2 months and one who never initiated breast-feeding or did not exclusively breast-feed for at least 2 months. The Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM) was administered, providing reading grade-level estimates for each subject.


An association between functional health literacy and breast-feeding was seen, with only 23% of the women in the lower literacy group exclusively breast-feeding during the first 2 months compared with 54% of women in the higher literacy group.


Many patients need simpler health education materials encouraging breastfeeding. These materials are needed both before and during pregnancy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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