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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Graduate Nursing

First Advisor

Dianna Sorenson


breast feeding, rural women


Although patterns of breastfeeding initiation and duration among American women have made dramatic changes over the past 100 years, these patterns have not been studied in rural, low-income women. Furthermore, even less is known about the characteristics of rural low-income women who practice short-term breastfeeding. Therefore, the problem under investigation was to explore the relationship between rural low-income women's knowledge and short-term duration of breastfeeding. The objectives of the study were to: 1) describe what are the characteristics of rural low-income women who breastfeed for four or more weeks postpartum, 2) describe what sources did they receive breastfeeding instruction and information from, and 3) explore the relationship between breastfeeding knowledge and duration of breastfeeding. The research design was non-experimental descriptive correlational, utilizing a combination of questionnaire and survey approaches. The purposive sample consisted of 30 rural, low-income women who received care from a women's health care center in a northcentral state. Generally, women who breastfed four or more weeks were: 1) older than women who breastfed less than four weeks, 2) had obtained more basic school education, 3) breastfed previous children, 4) received support from the baby's father, 5) planned to breastfeed a longer duration of time, 6) felt more successful while breastfeeding, 7) began to breastfeed early post-delivery, 8) thought nurses and doctors were important to breastfeeding, and 9) had the baby "room-in" with them. A small number of women received formal breastfeeding instruction from a hospital or during childbirth classes. In contrast, a vast majority of the women had obtained informal breastfeeding information. Sources most frequently reported were hospitals, clinics, lactation consultants, nurses, and books. Lastly, breastfeeding knowledge alone was found to have a minimally positive influence on breastfeeding duration. Factual knowledge (about breastfeeding) seemed to play a small role in extending breastfeeding duration. Implications of this study include the need to educate all health care providers and women that breastfeeding has been clearly established as the optimal way to feed an infant. Breastfeeding is essential in order to achieve optimal infant health, growth, and development. Continuing education about infant and maternal breastfeeding advantages must be conveyed to all women. Characteristics of all women who stop breastfeeding early postpartum must be identified in order to develop effective interventions to increase breastfeeding duration. To be successful, these interventions should be research based and involve both breastfeeding women and health care providers in identifying goals and strategies that may prolong breastfeeding duration. Combining both breastfeeding instruction with access to information may be associated with increased breastfeeding duration. Health care providers may be influential in extending breastfeeding duration by enthusiastically promoting and supporting breastfeeding, ensuring breastfeeding women receive accurate information, promoting policies that facilitate breastfeeding, becoming familiar with local breastfeeding resources, encouraging family and societal support, promoting breastfeeding education in nursing curricula, and encouraging the media to portray breastfeeding as positive and the norm.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Breast feeding
Rural women



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 1998 Jeffery Enstad. All rights reserved