Counseling About the Maternal Health Benefits of Breastfeeding and Mothers’ Intentions to Breastfeed

Megan Ross-Cowdery, Carrie A. Lewis, Melissa Papic, Jennifer Corbelli, Eleanor Schwarz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Objectives To evaluate the impact of counseling regarding the maternal health effects of lactation on pregnant women’s intentions to breastfeed. Methods Women seeking prenatal care at an urban university hospital completed surveys before and after receiving a 5-min counseling intervention regarding the maternal health effects of breastfeeding. The counseling was delivered by student volunteers using a script and one-page infographic. Participants were asked the likelihood that breastfeeding affects maternal risk of multiple chronic conditions using 7-point Likert scales. We compared pre/post changes in individual item responses and a summary score of knowledge of the maternal health benefits of lactation (MHBL) using paired t tests. Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine the impact of increases in knowledge of MHBL on participants’ intentions to breastfeed. Results The average age of the 65 participants was 24 ± 6 years. Most (72 %) were African-American and few (9 %) had college degrees. Half (50 %) had previously given birth, but few (21 %) had previously breastfed. Before counseling, few were aware of any benefits of lactation for maternal health. After counseling, knowledge of MHBL increased (mean knowledge score improved from 19/35 to 26/35, p < 0.001). Improvement in MHBL knowledge score was associated with increased intention to try breastfeeding (aOR 1.20, 95 % CI 1.02–1.42), of wanting to breastfeed (aOR 1.45, 95 % CI 1.13–1.86), and feeling that breastfeeding is important (aOR 1.21, 95 % CI 1.03–1.42). Conclusions for Practice Brief structured counseling regarding the effects of lactation on maternal health can increase awareness of the maternal health benefits of breastfeeding and strengthen pregnant women’s intentions to breastfeed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-241
Number of pages8
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017



  • Breastfeeding
  • Counseling
  • Lactation
  • Maternal health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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