Ethnically Distinct Ways of Describing Breast Milk


Poster Presentation


To determine which words or phrases women from three different age groups (12–21, 22–45, 46 and greater) and four different ethnicities (African American, Hispanic, Asian, White) use to describe breast milk.


Evidence-based quality improvement project.


Women greater than the age of 12 and of African American, Asian, White, or Hispanic ethnicity.


Through a survey, a total of 216 women were individually asked, How would you complete the following sentence to describe the value of breast milk and breast feeding. Breast milk is like… The women were also asked how they would describe their ethnicity and their age group.

Implementation Strategies

Qualitative descriptive design with a survey of women in the maternity ward and outside of the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, on streets in West Philadelphia, and through an anonymous online survey.


We used qualitative descriptive data analysis to identify seven themes for words or phrases that describe breastfeeding: priceless gift, health, nutrition, protection, natural, bonding, and other. The responses were separated by race and then by the response's theme. Within each race, the percentage of responses in each theme varied. Among the Asian and Hispanic respondents, the most popular theme was natural. The most popular theme among White respondents was priceless gift and among African American respondents was nutrition.

Conclusion/Implications for Nursing Practice

To effectively communicate the value of breast milk to new mothers, nurses should emphasize that breastfeeding is natural and nutritious. It is also effective to refer to breast milk as a priceless gift, such as liquid gold. The results of this study indicate that it would be ineffective to encourage new mothers to breastfeed by describing the low cost of breastfeeding or by explaining how breastfeeding can help a new mother lose weight. Based on these results, it is apparent that women of different ethnicities use different language to describe the value of breast milk. However, no parallel pattern was identified among women of differing age groups. The implications of this study will be useful to health providers as they teach new mothers about breastfeeding.