Master's Project Title:

Breastfeeding and Adolescent Mothers: A Doula Intervention Research Proposal

MCH Student:

Kate Haralson

Date of Defense:

April 2013


Infants of adolescent mothers face many health disparities, and breastfeeding in this population can help close these health gaps. Unfortunately, adolescent mothers breastfeed at much lower rates than adult mothers, and face many barriers to developing a breastfeeding relationship with their infant, including increased rates of postpartum depression. Doula support prenatally, during lab or, and in the postpartum period improves breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity, and decreases the incidence of postpartum depression in adult populations. Providing adolescent mothers with doula support may increase their breast feeding efforts, both directly by providing education and support, and indirectly by reducing postpartum depression. Using the Theory of Planned Behavior as a guide, the current proposal will compare breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity, and the incidence of postpartum depression in adolescents who receive doula support with these outcomes for adolescents who receive no doula support. It is hypothesized that adolescents who receive doula support will be more likely to initiate breastfeeding, more likely to breastfeed exclusively, will breastfeed longer, and will have lower rates of postpartum depression than adolescents with no doula support. This research will have important implications for future interventions aimed at increasing breastfeeding rates in adolescent mothers, will influence coverage of doula services, and will improve the reception of doulas in birth settings.