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Pediatrics. 2001 Aug;108(2):291-6.

The decision to breastfeed in the United States: does race matter?

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  • 1Department of Sociology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602, USA.



To estimate the effects of maternal and birth characteristics on the decision to breastfeed and to relate breastfeeding practices to racial differences in infant mortality.


Using a sample of women with young children from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), Cycle V, 1995, the likelihood of breastfeeding was modeled using logistic regression techniques. In addition, single, live births from the NSFG 1988 and 1995 surveys were analyzed to model the effects of race and breastfeeding on infant mortality using Cox regression methods.


After controlling for socioeconomic background and birth characteristics, race remained a strong predictor of breastfeeding. Black women were less likely to breastfeed than nonblack women were, and the primary reason indicated by black women for not breastfeeding was that they "preferred to bottle-feed." Analyses of infant mortality indicated that breastfeeding accounts for the race difference in infant mortality in the United States at least as well as low birth weight does.


Race is an important predictor of breastfeeding, with most black women reporting that they "preferred bottle-feeding." Efforts to increase breastfeeding of infants in the black community should help narrow the racial gap in infant mortality.

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