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Breastfeeding Initiation and Continuation Among Sexual Minority Women

Abstract

Objectives

Identify disparities in breastfeeding initiation and continuation among sexual minority women (SMW) and determine if known risk factors explain any observed disparities.

Methods

We used data from the 2006 to 2017 National Survey of Family Growth female pregnancy questionnaire. We measured sexual orientation using self-reported sexual identity and histories of same-sex sexual experiences reported by women (heterosexual-WSM [women who only reported sex with men]; heterosexual-WSW [women who reported sex with women]; bisexual, and lesbian. In total, we had 18,696 births that occurred within the last 10 years and used logistic and multinomial regression models to assess sexual orientation disparities in breastfeeding initiation and duration that clustered on women to account for potential multiple births to a woman.

Results

Compared to heterosexual-WSM, infants born to lesbian-identified women had decreased odds of ever being breastfed (OR 0.55, 95% CI 0.30, 0.99) and a decreased relative risk of being breastfed more than 6 months (RRR 0.46, 95% CI 0.22, 0.97). Infants of heterosexual-WSW had an increased odds of ever breastfeeding (OR 1.40, 95% CI 1.12, 1.74) and increased relative risk of breastfeeding more than 6 months (RRR 1.32, 95% CI 1.02, 1.69).

Conclusions

Our results show that infants born to lesbian-identified women were less likely to be breastfed than those born to their heterosexual counterparts, even after adjusting for several factors associated with breastfeeding behaviors. We found no differences in breastfeeding between bisexual women and heterosexual-WSM. Understanding and addressing the barriers sexual minority women face for breastfeeding is critical for ensuring maternal and child health equity.

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Data Availability

NSFG data are publicly available.

Code Availability

Available upon request.

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Funding

Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01HD091405 and the University of Colorado Population Center (Grant R24 HD066613) through administrative and computing support.

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The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Virginia Jenkins.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This study was exempt from IRB review because it used secondary, publicly available NSFG data.

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Jenkins, V., Everett, B.G., Steadman, M. et al. Breastfeeding Initiation and Continuation Among Sexual Minority Women. Matern Child Health J 25, 1757–1765 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-021-03218-z

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Keywords

  • Breastfeeding
  • Sexual minority women
  • NSFG
  • Infant health
  • Sexual orientation
  • Health disparities