Date of Award
Public Policy Leadership
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.
Dragna, Grace Louise, "Barriers to Breastfeeding for Mothers in the Mississippi Women, Infants, and Children Program: Insights of Peer Counselors" (2022). Honors Theses. 2482.
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