Improvements in Breastfeeding Rates Linked to Low-Tech Study
By Lupe Chavez
December 19, 2001
U.S. Surgeon General has made
increasing breastfeeding rates a public health priority, but there has been
little information about the best way to do so--until now.
Agricultural Research Service scientists
at the Children's Nutrition Research
Center at the Baylor College of
Medicine in Houston, Texas, have identified ways to increase breastfeeding
rates among low-income Hispanic mothers.
Proyecto Leche de Vida (Project Milk of Life), a community-based
project spearheaded by scientist Judy Hopkinson at CNRC, is churning out
results. In a study of 105 women, she found that 38 percent breastfed
exclusively for a period of 3 months, compared to the normal area rate of 5
percent. Documented research indicates that breastfeeding exclusively for 3
months helps reduce infant morbidity and medical costs during the first year of
The study was designed to compare the effectiveness of home visits and
telephone consultations among Hispanic women living in Houston's East End
community. The neighborhood is home to a large immigrant population, of which
90 percent are Hispanic and many are first-generation families in the United
States. Providing medical services and information to the countrys
burgeoning Hispanic population could help decrease medical costs and improve
Hopkinsons research also found that 41 percent of participants who
received home visits and 35 percent of those who received phone calls still
breastfed their child exclusively at 3 months postpartum. First-time mothers
often lack breastfeeding knowledge and skills. Hispanic women also have limited
access to Spanish-language breastfeeding information and assistance in
hospitals. As a result, bilingual hands-on teaching during home visits improved
breastfeeding rates among the experimental group.
Hopkinson's group has provided approximately 2,700 consultations about
breastfeeding to more than 450 women living in Houston. Another 1,000 women
have participated in prenatal breastfeeding classes.
Proyecto Leche de Vidas success has helped it gain a $250,000
Texas grant to help develop similar projects in under-served Houston
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.