Breastfeeding as health-promoting behaviour for Hispanic women: literature review


  • Jane M. Schlickau RN PhD ARNP/CNS,

  • Margaret E. Wilson PhD CPNP

Jane M. Schlickau,
Southwestern College,
100 College Street,
KS 67156,


Aim.  This paper reports a literature review to synthesize the evidence that breastfeeding is a health-promoting behaviour for Hispanic women and to demonstrate the usefulness of the Health Promotion Model in understanding and increasing breastfeeding behaviours in Hispanic women.

Background.  While breastfeeding has been shown to promote the health of both mother and infant, it has not been widely viewed from the perspective of the Health Promotion Model.

Methods.  The CINAHL and MEDLINE databases were searched using the terms ‘Hispanic’ or ‘Latina’, ‘breastfeeding’ and concepts specific to the Health Promotion Model (interpersonal relationships, social support, acculturation, self-efficacy, barriers, benefits, and commitment). Only papers in the English language from 1990 to 2003 (except for classic papers) that used research techniques were reviewed. Only those addressing breastfeeding intention, initiation or duration were included. The reference lists of each paper were examined for additional empirical papers that linked any of the determinants of the Health Promotion Model to breastfeeding among Hispanic women. Papers were organized using the ten determinants as headings: prior related behaviour, personal factors, perceived benefits, perceived barriers, perceived self-efficacy, activity-related affect, interpersonal influences, situational influences, immediate competing demands, and commitment to a plan of action. The review was conducted in 2003.

Findings.  The literature verifies that each of the 10 determinants of health-promoting behaviour also promotes breastfeeding for Hispanic women, particularly through the constructs of acculturation, interpersonal support, self-efficacy and immediate competing demands. Breastfeeding is not consistently defined in all studies, nor are Hispanic population groups uniformly classified according to country of origin. Specific interventions to promote breastfeeding have been implemented for women of Latin American origin, but randomized designs to measure outcomes have not been consistently employed with Hispanic women in the United States of America. Further intervention research is needed to confirm breastfeeding as a health-promoting behaviour and to inform breastfeeding education for this group.