Title

Examining the Barriers and Facilitators of Breastfeeding Duration Among Active-Duty Military Mothers

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Major

Nursing

Date of Defense

5-4-2021

Graduate Advisor

Kathie Records, PhD, RN, FAAN

Committee

Patricia G Parker, PhD

Dr. Shelly Hanko

Abstract

Abstract Objective: To describe breastfeeding duration, as well as barriers and facilitators experienced, by active-duty women in the United States military. Design: A cross-sectional design guided the study. Setting: The setting was a social media site offering breastfeeding education and support for military mothers. Participants: The sample included 292 mothers who reported having a baby, initiating breastfeeding postpartum, and returning to work while serving active-duty in the United States within the last five years. Methods: An investigator-designed Qualtrics survey with multiple choice, Likert, and open-ended questions was used. Analysis procedures focused on descriptive statistics, chi-square, and logistic regression. Content analysis was used to identify common themes in qualitative data. Results: Participants reported breastfeeding at a rate in line with Healthy People 2020 goals. Enlisted as compared with officer mothers were less likely to meet their breastfeeding goals (32% vs 50%) and more likely to report job barriers as the primary reason for cessation (42% vs 26%). The most frequently reported job-related barriers were lack of time and proper accommodation. Facilitators included self-motivation, proper accommodations, schedule flexibility, workplace support and policy. Perception of the military as being a hindrance was the primary predictor of not meeting breastfeeding goals. The need for providing leadership with education on breastfeeding was a major theme. Conclusions: Addressing issues that might ease the difficulties in balancing career and family are vital for retention in the military which is now experiencing 30% greater loss of childbearing age women than men. Military policies related to maternity leave and lactation are a work-in-progress, but findings from this study show that perception of support from the military is a critical factor in meeting one’s breastfeeding goal.

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