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      The Influence of Social Networks and Norms on Breastfeeding in African American and Caucasian Mothers: A Qualitative Study

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          Abstract

          Background: Social networks and subjective norms (individuals' perceptions of what other people think) can be influential in decision-making. Although there are data about the importance of support in initiation and duration of breastfeeding, no studies have explored the influence of women's social networks and the norms within those networks on breastfeeding.

          Research Aim: To investigate, through qualitative methods, the influence of mothers' social networks and subjective norms, both within and outside of her network, with regard to breastfeeding practices.

          Materials and Methods: Twenty-eight mothers participated in focus groups or individual interviews. Probing questions concerning breastfeeding intent, initiation, continuation, and support with regard to social networks and subjective norms were asked. Themes were developed in an iterative manner from coded data. Matrix coding queries assessed patterns in the data and compared quotes based on the respondents' race and social network type.

          Results: General themes that emerged were the importance of breastfeeding experience within one's social network, the influence of the infant's father, handling disagreement within one's network, and the effects of social norms that exist outside of one's network. Mothers described support for breastfeeding from network members as especially important when breastfeeding was not the norm within the network. There were no differences in themes by race or social network type.

          Conclusion: Breastfeeding behavior is influenced by a mother's social network, regardless of her race or social network type. Even when breastfeeding is not normative within one's social network, by relying on one network member to support them, mothers may be able to resist the opposing norms of their social network. Since breastfeeding is known to be beneficial to infants and mothers, education or interventions to improve breastfeeding rates may be more effective if they include individual network members who can provide strong support to new mothers.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          Breastfeed Med
          Breastfeed Med
          bfm
          Breastfeeding Medicine
          Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers (140 Huguenot Street, 3rd FloorNew Rochelle, NY 10801USA )
          1556-8253
          1556-8342
          01 November 2019
          08 November 2019
          : 14
          : 9
          : 640-647
          Affiliations
          [ 1 ]Goldberg Center for Community Pediatric Health, Department of Pediatrics, Children's National Health System, Washington, District of Columbia.
          [ 2 ]Department of Pediatrics, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, District of Columbia.
          [ 3 ]Department of Pediatrics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.
          Author notes
          Address correspondence to: Rebecca Carlin, MD, Goldberg Center for Community Pediatric Health, Department of Pediatrics, Children's National Health System, 111 Michigan Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20010 rcarlin@ 123456childrensnational.org
          Article
          PMC6857545 PMC6857545 6857545 10.1089/bfm.2019.0044
          10.1089/bfm.2019.0044
          6857545
          31433206
          Copyright 2019, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers
          Page count
          Tables: 5, References: 31, Pages: 8
          Categories
          Clinical Research

          social norms, breastfeeding, social networks

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