Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation





First Advisor

Dr. Debra Anderson

Second Advisor

Dr. Kristin Ashford


Breastfeeding is the gold standard of infant feeding and its benefits extend beyond the mother and child. Multiple organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life. Exclusive breastfeeding rates nationally and in the state of Kentucky fall below the Healthy People 2020 goals. A mother’s intention to breastfeed has been shown to impact actual breastfeeding behavior. The current state of the measurement of intention was explored through a literature review. A majority of the measures were single item scales. The reliability and validity of the scales should be further tested in diverse populations.

The purposes of this dissertation were to: a) explore the role of breastfeeding intention on duration of exclusive breastfeeding, and b) determine the common modifiable factors among women who breastfeed exclusively for at least four months. English speaking mothers 18 years of age and older were asked to participate if they had delivered a healthy infant in the last 72 hours and if they intended to feed their baby some amount of breast milk (n = 84). Mothers were followed for 16 weeks or until they weaned their infant, whichever came first. Social support, breastfeeding self-efficacy and breastfeeding intention were measured at baseline. Breastfeeding support and breastfeeding self-efficacy were measured at four and 16 weeks. Results indicated that mothers with stronger intention to breastfeed were more likely to breastfeed exclusively for a longer period of time. Mothers who breastfed their infant exclusively for 16 weeks were asked to participate in one of two focus group meetings (n = 15). The following five themes emerged from the data: 1) knowledge, 2) peer experience, 3) support, 4) perseverance, and 5) the public.