OBJECTIVES. Previous research has shown substantial racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in US breastfeeding initiation and duration rates. However, the role of immigrant status in understanding such disparities has not been well studied. In this study we examined the extent to which breastfeeding initiation and duration varied by immigrant status overall and in conjunction with race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status after controlling for other relevant social and behavioral covariates.

METHODS. The cross-sectional data for 33121 children aged 0 to 5 years from the 2003 National Survey of Children's Health were used to calculate ever-breastfeeding rates and duration rates at 3, 6, and 12 months by social factors. Multivariate logistic regression was used to estimate relative odds of never breastfeeding and not breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months.

RESULTS. More than 72% of mothers reported ever breastfeeding their infants, with the duration rate declining to 52%, 38%, and 16% at 3, 6, and 12 months, respectively. Ever-breastfeeding rates varied greatly among the 12 ethnic-immigrant groups included in this analysis, from a low of 48% for native black children with native parents to a high of 88% among immigrant black and white children. Compared with immigrant Hispanic children with foreign-born parents (the least acculturated group), the odds of never breastfeeding were respectively 2.4, 2.9, 6.5, and 2.4 times higher for native children with native parents (the most acculturated group) of Hispanic, white, black, and other ethnicities. Socioeconomic patterns also varied by immigrant status, and differentials were greater in breastfeeding at 6 months.

CONCLUSIONS. Immigrant women in each racial/ethnic group had higher breastfeeding initiation and longer duration rates than native women. Acculturation was associated with lower breastfeeding rates among both Hispanic and non-Hispanic women. Ethnic-immigrant and social groups with lower breastfeeding rates identified herein could be targeted for breastfeeding promotion programs.

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