Maternal, Perinatal and Pediatric Nutrition
Objectives : The objective of the study was to determine the familiarity of breastfeeding laws and provision of resources among college students in a large public university in southeastern United States.
Methods : This was a cross-sectional online survey of undergraduate and graduate students of the University of Georgia. Data was collected through Qualtrics.
Results : 1,117 college students of which over half (53.1%) were undergraduate students participated in the study. 76.1% self-identified as females while 0.6% self-identified as transgender. About two-thirds of the participants were 24 years or younger with significant age difference between undergraduate and graduate students, and majority being Caucasians. Only 16.1% and 4.5% reported to be familiar with federal and state laws and provisions that support maternal leave and successful breastfeeding. Significantly higher percentage of graduate students reported to be familiar with both federal (p< 0.0001) and state (p=0.008) breastfeeding laws. Less than 8% of the participants were familiar with the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative concept. About 1 in 4 of the participants reported the institution provides supportive breastfeeding environment with significant difference in the response by undergraduate versus graduate students (p< 0.0001). Majority of undergraduates compared to graduate students "support promotional materials of formula milk, feeding bottles, and pacifiers in hospital" (p< 0.0001). A higher percentage of undergraduate students were of the opinion that "hospitals can provide discharge packs containing free infant formula to new mothers" (p=0.003). Significantly higher percentage of graduate students compared to undergraduate students were of the opinion that is is appropriate for women to breastfeed at work (p=0.006) and should be paid for time spent breastfeeding or expressing breastmilk at work (p< 0.0001).
Conclusions : The awareness of both federal and state breastfeeding laws was generally low among college students. Further studies are needed to develop breastfeeding education interventions aimed at improving familiarity and awareness of federal and state breastfeeding laws and provisions on our college campus if we are to achieve breastfeeding objectives set for the year 2020 and beyond.
Funding Sources : The project was supported by the Georgia Agriculture Experimental Station (GEO00820).