UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


Disparities in Breastfeeding Among Military Veterans

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Military and Veterans Studies | Race and Ethnicity


BACKGROUND: Although breastfeeding is a major public health priority and provides numerous benefits, women veterans encounter many barriers to initiating and sustaining breastfeeding. Women veterans are a growing population with unique health care needs related to exposures and injuries experienced during military service. These military experiences are linked to health diagnoses known to impact postpartum health behaviors, such as breastfeeding.

RESEARCH AIM: The aim of this study was to identify factors associated with breastfeeding at 4 weeks postpartum among women veterans.

METHODS: We used 2016-to-2018 survey data from women veterans (N = 420), interviewed before and after delivery, who were enrolled in maternity care coordination at a national sample of Veterans Health Administration facilities. Using the social ecological model, logistic regression was employed to explore the relationship between breastfeeding at least 4 weeks and postpartum and maternal/infant characteristics, interpersonal dynamics, community influences, and system factors.

RESULTS: The rate of breastfeeding at 4 weeks postpartum was 78.6% among this sample of veterans. Self-employed participants were 2.8 times more likely to breastfeed than those who were employed outside the home. Participants who had been deployed at any point in their military career were twice as likely to breastfeed compared with those who never deployed. In this study sample, race independently predicted lower rates of breastfeeding, with African American participants being 48% less likely to breastfeed as compared with white participants.

CONCLUSION: Our analysis suggests significant racial disparities in breastfeeding within veteran populations utilizing Veterans Health Administration, despite access to multiple sources of support from both the Veterans Health Administration and the community.


access to care, breastfeeding, breastfeeding barriers, health services research, social ecological model

DOI of Published Version



Keddem S, Solomon P, Marcus SC, Schapira MM, Mattocks KM. Disparities in Breastfeeding Among Military Veterans. J Hum Lact. 2020 Feb;36(1):64-73. doi: 10.1177/0890334419888200. Epub 2019 Nov 26. PMID: 31770049. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of human lactation : official journal of International Lactation Consultant Association

PubMed ID