Breastfeeding Disparities and Their Mediators in an Urban Birth Cohort of Black and White Mothers

Ardythe L. Morrow, Janelle Mcclain, Shannon C. Conrey, Liang Niu, Alexandra Kinzer, Allison R. Cline, Alexandra M. Piasecki, Emily Defranco, Laura Ward, Julie Ware, Daniel C. Payne, Mary A. Staat, Laurie A. Nommsen-Rivers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Black mothers in the United States have shorter breastfeeding (BF) durations and less exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) than others. The factors underlying these disparities require investigation. Methods: Using longitudinal data from a CDC-sponsored birth cohort in Cincinnati, Ohio, we analyzed the factors mediating racial disparity in BF outcomes. Study mothers were enrolled in prenatal clinics associated with two large birth hospitals. Analysis was restricted to racial groups with sufficient numbers in the cohort, non-Hispanic Black (n = 92) and White (n = 113) mothers, followed to at least 6 months postpartum. Results: Black mothers were 25 times more likely to reside in socioeconomically deprived neighborhoods and 20 times more likely to have an annual household income <$50,000/year than White mothers (p < 0.001). The gap in EBF for 6 weeks was 45 percentage points by racial group (13% - Black mothers versus 58% - White mothers, p < 0.001); in any BF at 6 months was 37 percentage points (28% - Black mothers versus 65% - White mothers, p < 0.001); and in mothers meeting their own intention to BF at least 6 months was 51 percentage points (29% - Black mothers versus 80% - White mothers, p < 0.001). Racial disparity in EBF at 6 weeks was mediated in logistic regression models by inequities in socioeconomic position, maternal hypertension, and BF intention. Racial disparities in BF at 6 months or meeting 6-month BF intention were mediated by inequities in socioeconomic position, maternal obesity, and EBF at 6 weeks. Not all BF disparities could be explained by models used in these analyses. Conclusions: Efforts to lessen BF disparities should address the underlying structural inequities that disproportionately affect Black mothers and children, should incorporate maternal health, and focus on breastfeeding exclusivity and duration. Few Black mothers achieved EBF at 6 weeks, which contributed to disparity in BF duration. Greater attention to Black mother-infant pairs is a public health priority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-462
Number of pages11
JournalBreastfeeding Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2021, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.


  • breastfeeding
  • equity
  • health disparity
  • race
  • social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Health Policy
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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