Refugee Women’s Breastfeeding Practices and Experiences Following Resettlement in Tarrant County




Raines-Milenkov, Amy
Durbin, Katherine
Baker, Eva
Kwentua, Victoria
Thein, Emelda
Mudey, Halimo
Subedi, Radhika
Rudasingwa, Laurette


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Purpose Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life ensures that infants obtain adequate nutrients needed to support healthy growth and development. While there is robust literature on factors influencing breastfeeding initiation and duration among sub-populations of women, there is little known about the breastfeeding practices of refugee women resettled in the United States. The limited studies and anecdotal reports suggest, however, that breastfeeding practices change following resettlement. This qualitative study aims to explore refugee women’s infant feeding experiences and practices to better inform culturally appropriate education, support, and maternity care for women resettled in Tarrant County, Texas. Methods Refugee women between the ages of 18 and 50, who had given birth to at least one live infant were recruited into the study. Participants completed a demographic survey and participated in a focus group discussion about their breastfeeding practices and experiences. The demographic survey addressed participant age, ethnicity, time and experience breastfeeding, etc., and descriptive statistics were complied to assess the characteristics/demographics of the study population. Bilingual research personnel conducted focus groups in their respective language using a semi-structured interview guide exploring infant feeding practices, experiences, sources of information, etc. The group discussions were audio-recorded, translated and transcribed. Systematic procedures of qualitative data analysis included intensive reading of the text and group discussion of full transcripts, followed by coding, displaying, reducing, and interpreting information. Results Refugee women representing different ethnic groups participated in the demographic surveys and focus groups. Conclusions Results of the focus groups suggest multiple influences on infant feeding practices of refugee women following resettlement in the United States. A culturally and linguistically multi-level approach to providing education and support services to refugee women is necessary to protect their breastfeeding practices. Findings from this study have implications for health providers, resettlement agencies, public health and others involved in serving this population.