Teen and adult mothers' attitudes and beliefs concerning infant feeding practices



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Texas Tech University


This study examined whether there are distinctions between adolescent and young adult mothers' psychosocial factors and beliefs concerning breast- and bottle-feeding. A number of studies had found distinctions between breast-feeding versus bottle-feeding adolescents, but it was unclear whether these distinctions are unique to adolescents. Thus, respondents in the present investigation consisted of both teens and adults.

The mothers were recruited shortly after delivery at a university hospital. Adolescent mothers were between the ages of 13 and 18, adult mothers were 20 to 32 years of age. Participants fell into 4 groups. • Breast-feeding adolescents, • Bottle-feeding adolescents, • Breast-feeding adults, • Bottle-feeding adults.

All mothers were administered a short battery of questionnaires, including the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression inventory (CES-D), Profile for Mood States (POMS), and Fetal Attachment Questionnaire. In a short interview, mothers also responded to questions pertaining to their choice of feeding method.

Results revealed similarities between teen and adult breast-feeding mothers. Both groups reported similarly low levels of depression and hostility and high levels of attachment to their infants. Concerns about other children and going back to work or school played a greater role in the decision to bottle-feed.

Contrastingly, attitudes of bottle-feeding mothers differed between teens and adults. Notably, teen bottle-feeding mothers reported higher levels of depression and hostility.

The findings have implications for policies geared toward the encouragement of breast-feeding, especially among adolescents. They point lo the importance of addressing breast-feeding teen mothers' need for social support. This may help maintain breast-feeding which is usually terminated very quickly among this group. The findings also point to the importance of addressing bottle-feeding mothers' feelings of depression and hostility, as these ma> be more fundamental to parenting behavior than issues regarding feeding methods.