Document Type

Reviews and Responses


Breastfeeding is well-established as a beneficial practice for both infants and mothers; substantial evidence from a wide variety of international settings supports the positive impacts of breastfeeding. However, a significant proportion of U.S. infants are not fed according to this standard. While poor breastfeeding rates can be found in all parts of the United States, the problem is particularly prevalent among mothers living in rural environments where health outcomes are consistently worse than national averages. Significant differences have been found between urban and rural women in many breastfeeding behavioral outcomes, including consistently lower rates reported among rural populations. The problem is considered so significant that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically recommend rural mothers as one of the priority groups that should be targeted with breastfeeding promotion programs. It is important to consider what health education strategies have been used to successfully improve breastfeeding outcomes and how they might be incorporated into programming specific to rural populations. The most successful approaches are those that also incorporate participant interaction and an emphasis on building maternal confidence. Health educators should also make efforts to adapt existing prenatal and breastfeeding education programs to include elements that are known to improve breastfeeding outcomes. In addition to program implementation efforts, there are also numerous ways in which health educators can advocate for changes that would promote breastfeeding in rural areas. While there are many potential advocacy topics, some are more pertinent to the needs of rural populations than others. This commentary expands on these issues from an epidemiological and socio-cultural perspective and addresses possible health promotion and health education strategies that could work to reduce this important health disparity.

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©2017 Kimberly Aschbrenner and Disa Lubker Cornish



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