Housing Insecurity, Housing Conditions, and Breastfeeding Behaviors for Medicaid-Eligible Families in Urban Settings

Rebecca Reno, Mackenzie Whipps, Jordyn T. Wallenborn, Jill Demirci, Debra L. Bogen, Rachel S. Gross, Alan L. Mendelsohn, Pamela A. Morris, Daniel S. Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Research exploring associations between exposure to social determinants of health and breastfeeding is needed to identify breastfeeding barriers. Housing insecurity and household conditions (chaos and crowding) may affect breastfeeding by increasing maternal stress and discomfort and decreasing time available to breastfeed. Research Aim: We aimed to examine the relationships between housing insecurity, breastfeeding exclusivity intention during the early postnatal period, and breastfeeding exclusivity at 6 months postpartum among a sample “at risk” for suboptimal breastfeeding rates. Methods: This study is a secondary data analysis of a longitudinal study at two time periods. Data were collected from English- and Spanish-speaking, Medicaid-eligible mother-infant dyads (N = 361) at near-birth and child aged 6 months, in New York City and Pittsburgh. Structural equation modeling was used to examine direct and indirect effects of housing insecurity on breastfeeding exclusivity at child aged 6 months. Results: The path model showed that experiencing more markers of housing insecurity (i.e., foreclosure/eviction threat, history of homelessness, late rent) was predictive of significantly lower breastfeeding exclusivity at 6 months. This was partially mediated through less exclusive breastfeeding intention during the early postnatal period. Greater household crowding was associated with 6-month breastfeeding exclusivity when mediated by intention. Household crowding had differential effects by study site and participant race/ethnicity. Conclusion: Refinement of housing insecurity as a multi-dimensional construct can lead to the development of standardized data collection instruments, inform future methodological decisions in research addressing social determinants of health, and can inform the development of responsive individual- and structural-level interventions. The data used in this study were collected as part of the SMART Beginnings Randomized Controlled Trial (NCT02459327 registered at ClinicalTrials.gov).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)760-770
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Human Lactation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Chaos
  • Hubbub
  • United States
  • and Order Scale
  • breastfeeding
  • breastfeeding intention
  • disparities
  • exclusive breastfeeding
  • housing insecurity
  • secondary data analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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