Graduate School of Nursing Dissertations

Publication Date


Document Type

Dissertation, Doctoral


Graduate School of Nursing

Dissertation Committee Chair

Susan Sullivan-Bolyai


Breast Feeding, Bottle Feeding, Infant, Mothers, Infant Care, Maternal Behavior, Decision Making, Mass Media

Subject Categories

Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Health Communication | Mass Communication | Maternal and Child Health | Maternal, Child Health and Neonatal Nursing | Nursing | Public Health Education and Promotion


Breastfeeding has been established as providing the best and most complete nutrition for newborns, as this method promotes the infant’s health and supports infant growth (American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP], 2005). Mass media have been suggested as powerful and universal means of communication with the potential to impact social norms. Thus, this qualitative descriptive study explored, within the context of the Socioecological Framework, women’s decision making on whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed their infants and the effect of mass media on their decision.

Data were collected in individual audiotaped interviews with participants recruited from the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition and UMass Memorial Medical Center. Interview data were compared to text and visual representation from 12 Internet sites on parenting and infant feeding. Data analysis was conducted simultaneously with data collection and was continued until saturation was achieved. The comparison findings demonstrated that the emerging themes from the participant interviews reflected the information represented on the Internet sites.

The main theme Media Matters Not suggested that mass media did not influence infant feeding decisions for this group of mothers. What did have an important impact on infant feeding decisions was the information and emotional support provided by partners, family, and HCPs (subtheme of Influences on Decisions). The participants offered suggestions of media messages they would like see in the future such as public service announcements of women breastfeeding their infants. In addition, the participants discussed media issues that had potential for influencing infant feeding decisions (Media Messages—Good and Bad), emphasized the need for public opinion to be altered so that breastfeeding in public would be viewed as more acceptable (Community/Public Opinions), and described suggestions for enhancing media messages about breastfeeding (Recommendations for Future Media Messages). The implications for nursing practice, public policy, and future research related to the topic were discussed.



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