Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 183–199 | Cite as

The Influence of Acculturation on Breastfeeding Initiation and Duration for Mexican-Americans

  • Rachel Tolbert Kimbro
  • Scott M. Lynch
  • Sara McLanahan


This paper uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to test the hypotheses that (1) similar to other positive pre- and post-natal outcomes, Mexican immigrant mothers are more likely to breastfeed, and to breastfeed longer, than white or Mexican-American mothers; and (2) acculturation accounts for the ethnic/nativity differential in breastfeeding initiation and duration. The results support both hypotheses. Mexican immigrants to the U.S. are much more likely than whites to breastfeed, and to breastfeed longer. Mexican-American mothers, after controlling for background characteristics, have similar initiation and duration to whites. Using expanded acculturation measures developed for this paper, acculturation accounts for some of the difference between whites and Mexican immigrants in breastfeeding initiation, and much of the difference for breastfeeding duration. The results suggest that low levels of acculturation operate to protect Mexican immigrants from choosing to formula-feed, which gives their babies many health advantages, and may be associated with better health outcomes across the life course. The results also suggest that successive generations of Mexican immigrants may abandon breastfeeding, which is deleterious for their infants.


Acculturation Breastfeeding Mexican-Americans 



The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study was funded by NICHD grant number NIH 5R01HD36916 05 and a consortium of private foundations. The authors gratefully acknowledge the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health and Society Scholars program, the Center for Migration and Development at Princeton University, participants at the 2003 annual meeting of the Southern Demographic Association, James Trussell, Elizabeth Armstrong, and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel Tolbert Kimbro
    • 1
  • Scott M. Lynch
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sara McLanahan
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of SociologyRice UniversityHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  3. 3.Office of Population ResearchPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  4. 4.Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International AffairsPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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