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Health-Enhancing Behaviors Correlated with Breastfeeding Among a National Sample of Mothers

Authors

  • Jacqueline A Pesa Ph.D.,

    1. Jacqueline A. Pesa is an Assistant Professor of Health Education at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis. M. Mitchell Shelton is an Instructor with the Capstone College of Nursing at the University of Alabama.
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  • M. Mitchell Shelton R.N., Ph.D.

    1. Jacqueline A. Pesa is an Assistant Professor of Health Education at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis. M. Mitchell Shelton is an Instructor with the Capstone College of Nursing at the University of Alabama.
    Search for more papers by this author

Address correspondence to Jacqueline A. Pesa, Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis, 901 West New York Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202. E-mail: JPESA@IUPUI.EDU

Abstract

Participation in health-enhancing behaviors not only influences the health of the mother, but of the newborn child as well. Characteristics of the mother, especially with regard to the practice of health-enhancing behaviors, have typically been excluded from studies examining breastfeeding. The purpose of this study was to identify health-enhancing behaviors correlated with breastfeeding among a national sample of mothers. The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) provided the sample for this study. All mothers between the ages of 17 and 45 (n= 578) with children aged 3 or younger at the time of the interview, who breastfed, were included. Seven health-enhancing behaviors served as the independent variables in a logistic regression analysis. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated from the estimated regression coefficients, and comparison of proportions were made using Pearson chi-square tests of homogeneity. Smoking less than 100 cigarettes in a lifetime, consuming five or more fruits and/or vegetables daily, and visiting a dentist annually were significantly associated with breastfeeding among the mothers in this sample. The results of this study point to a connection between the health-enhancing behaviors of the mother and breastfeeding. This information can be used to help professionals and practitioners gain a clearer picture of the breastfeeding mother. Multicomponent education programs targeted at new mothers can use this information to guide program development. Breastfeeding mothers may have better overall health as compared to mothers who do not breastfeed, therefore, they may serve as role models in peer-structured activities.

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