Early Infant Feeding Decisions in Low-Income Latinas Academic Article uri icon


  • Breastfeeding rates remain low, especially among low-income minority women. The objective of this qualitative study was to assess barriers to breastfeeding and reasons for combination feeding among low-income Latina women and their families. Meetings were held with key informants to inform the sampling plan and develop questions for focus groups. Data were collected from eight qualitative focus groups with primiparous mothers postpartum, mothers breastfeeding at 4 to 6 months, mothers formula feeding at 4 to 6 months, grandmothers and fathers, and 29 individual interviews with formula- and combination-feeding mothers. Transcripts of focus groups and interviews were content coded and analyzed for thematic domains and then compared for concurrence and differences. Four main domains with 15 categories were identified: (a) Best of both: Mothers desire to ensure their babies get both the healthy aspects of breast milk and "vitamins" in formula. (b) Breastfeeding can be a struggle: Breastfeeding is natural but can be painful, embarrassing, and associated with breast changes and diet restrictions. (c) Not in Mother's Control: Mothers want to breastfeed, but things happen that cause them to discontinue breastfeeding. (d) Family and cultural beliefs: Relatives give messages about supplementation for babies who are crying or not chubby. Negative emotions are to be avoided so as to not affect mother's milk. Those counseling Latina mothers about infant feeding should discourage and/or limit early supplementation with formula, discuss the myth of "best of both," understand the fatalism involved in problem-solving breastfeeding issues, and enlist the altruism embedded in the family unit for support of the mother-infant pair.


  • Bunik, Maya
  • Clark, Lauren
  • Zimmer, Lorena Marquez
  • Jimenez, Luz M
  • O'Connor, Mary E
  • Crane, Lori A
  • Kempe, Allison

publication date

  • December 2006