The role of prenatal food insecurity on breastfeeding behaviors: Findings from the United States pregnancy risk assessment monitoring system

Lauren M. Dinour, Elizabeth I. Rivera Rodas, Ndidiamaka N. Amutah-Onukagha, Laurén A. Doamekpor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: In addition to its health and nutritional benefits, breastfeeding can save low-income, food insecure mothers the cost of infant formula so that money can be spent on food and other necessities. Yet breastfeeding may exacerbate food insecurity by negatively affecting maternal employment. The relationship between food insecurity and breastfeeding has been explored previously, with varying results. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between prenatal food insecurity and breastfeeding initiation and early cessation (< 10 weeks) among U.S. mothers. Methods: Data were pooled from 2012 to 2013 (Phase 7) of the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, a population-based cross-sectional survey of postpartum women administered 2-4 months after delivery. The analytic sample was drawn from Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, and limited to mothers aged 20 years and older whose infants were alive and living with them at the time of the survey (n = 10,159). We used binomial and multinomial logistic models to assess the predictive association between food insecurity and breastfeeding initiation and early cessation, respectively, while controlling for confounders. Results: Most women reported prenatal food security (90.5%) and breastfeeding initiation (91.0%). Of those who initiated breastfeeding, 72.7% breastfed for > 10 weeks. A larger proportion of food secure women compared to food insecure women, initiated breastfeeding (91.4% vs. 87.6%, P < 0.01), and patterns of early breastfeeding cessation differed significantly between the two groups (P < 0.01). In the final models, prenatal food insecurity was not associated with breastfeeding initiation or early cessation, with one exception. Compared to food secure mothers, mothers reporting food insecurity had a lower risk of breastfeeding for 4-6 weeks than for > 10 weeks, independent of covariates (relative risk ratio 0.65; 95% CI 0.50, 0.85; P < 0.01). Women who were married, had a college degree, and did not smoke were more likely to initiate breastfeeding and breastfeed for a longer time, regardless of food security status (P < 0.01). Conclusions: Socioeconomic, psychosocial, and physiological factors explain the association between prenatal food insecurity and breastfeeding outcomes among this U.S. sample. More targeted and effective interventions and policies are needed to encourage the initiation and duration of breastfeeding, regardless of food security status.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
JournalInternational Breastfeeding Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 19 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


  • Breastfeeding cessation
  • Breastfeeding initiation
  • Food insecurity

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