Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2022

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Public Policy Leadership

First Advisor

Melissa Bass

Second Advisor

Cathy Grace

Third Advisor

Jody Holland

Relational Format

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

Breastfeeding has been recognized by numerous public health organizations as the optimal feeding practice for infant growth and development, yet the state of Mississippi has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the nation. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program in Mississippi offers breastfeeding resources to low-income women throughout the state. Mothers enrolled in WIC can receive peer counseling services from women in their community who have personal experience with breastfeeding. This study serves to identify WIC peer counselors’ perceptions of factors influencing Mississippi WIC participants’ decisions to initiate and sustain breastfeeding. I interviewed eleven WIC peer counselors about their experiences with encouraging their clients to breastfeed. From these interviews, I identified four factors commonly named as barriers to initiating and sustaining breastfeeding: lack of education on breastfeeding, lack of social support, lack of support from medical professionals, and cultural influences. Additionally, many of the peer counselors discussed a cultural stigma surrounding breastfeeding that may be unique to Mississippi. These findings were used to develop policy recommendations, including strengthening breastfeeding promotion throughout the health care system and improving the WIC program’s community outreach and education efforts. Increasing breastfeeding rates in Mississippi begins with addressing these barriers within the WIC program and at the state level.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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