Breastfeeding Support in Georgia: Rural Living as a Factor

Heidi Altman, Ph.D.1, Nandi Marshall, DrPH2, Stacy Smallwood, Ph.D.2 (1)Georgia Southern University, (2)Georgia Southern University

APHA 2022 Annual Meeting and Expo

Background: Georgia has unusually high maternal mortality rates, and its Institutional Management scores for Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) are below average. Access to breastfeeding support is uneven across the state, with women in rural areas experiencing less support.

The Georgia Moms Project collects ethnographic interviews with mothers who have experienced their maternity care in Georgia since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2009. Pilot data include 37 interviews conducted with women who were recruited through social media and through safety net clinics in the Savannah area. These data are subjected to thematic and other qualitative analyses to examine trends in the experience of mothers in Georgia.

Results: Interviews from the Georgia Moms Project indicate that women who live in rural areas of Georgia often feel that they do not receive sufficient support for breastfeeding from their provider and at the same time feel social pressure to breastfeed. Although they understand that breastfeeding is healthy and free, they feel frustrated in trying to learn to breastfeed without lactation support. Whereas breastfeeding can have mitigating effects on postpartum anxiety and depression, complicated feelings about breastfeeding and lack of support can exacerbate these conditions.

Conclusion: Results suggest that lactation support is crucial to the initiation of breastfeeding and that the gaps in support in rural Georgia may contribute to negative maternal health outcomes. To ensure the best outcomes for mothers, lactation support and education should be made available throughout pregnancy.