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Texas WIC Breastfeeding Disparities Research

For the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), SUMA conducted research in both the Hispanic and African-American communities to identify attitudes, barriers, and cultural norms that impact exclusive breastfeeding especially in the first month.

The disparities vary in both communities. Only 74% of African-American mothers initiate breastfeeding, compared to 86% of Hispanic mothers and 81% of white mothers. Hispanics WIC mother’s breastfeeding initiation rates are high, about 86% as of September 2013 (Texas WIN.) However, significant disparities in exclusive breastfeeding rates exist.

To explore these issues, SUMA conducted extensive research with included one-on-one interviews, best practice research, and 40 focus groups with African-American and Hispanic mothers, fathers, and grandmothers to reveal barriers to successful breastfeeding in these populations. SUMA also held focus groups with nurses and WIC staff to hear about challenges as well as successful strategies for encouraging breastfeeding from healthcare providers. Through this large-scale research, SUMA explored attitudes, barriers, and themes in order to develop culturally appropriate messages, communication, and programmatic strategies that will leverage community strengths, target relevant barriers, and address racial disparities in optimal infant nutrition and care.

Based on SUMA’s recommendations, WIC has:

  • expanded their peer dad program to educate more Texas fathers on breastfeeding
  • commissioned new materials to address the concerns about breastfeeding voiced in the focus groups
  • developed a new two-hour breastfeeding class for mothers and their support person (fathers, grandmothers, friends)