Date of Award

Fall 2021

Degree Type



Public Health

Director of Thesis

Abbi Lane-Cordova, Ph.D

Second Reader

Xuewen Wang, Ph.D


Background: The purpose of this analysis was to investigate the effects of differing breastfeeding duration on vascular function.

Methods: A study was designed to explore the breastfeeding patterns of 79 participants who delivered a singleton fetus 6 months-3 years ago and were aged 18-45 years old. Participant breastfeeding and dietary habits were self-reported using surveys. Breastfeeding groups were established by following the American Association of Pediatric guidelines on breastfeeding duration: Women who did versus did not breastfeeding for 6 months continuously. Blood pressure was measured using a standard oscillometric cuff, while SphygmoCor® technology was used to measure pulse wave velocity. PWV, BSP, and BDP were regressed against breastfeeding status (Y/N) to observe any association between the variables, adjusting for potential covariates. Correlations between breastfeeding duration and vascular function were analyzed.

Results: Neither pulse wave velocity (PWV) nor brachial systolic or diastolic blood pressure (B-SP and B-DP) were related to breastfeeding duration in women 6 months – 3 years after delivery. Of the women who did not breastfeed for 6 months, the mean SBP was 115 mmHg, the mean DBP was 74 mmHg, and the mean pulse wave velocity was 5.87 m/s. Of women who did breastfeed for 6 months continuously, the mean SBP was 111 mmHg, the mean DBP was 71 mmHg, and the mean pulse wave velocity was 6 m/s. There was no difference in mean SBP (p=0.4240) or DBP (p=0.82) and arterial stiffness (p=0.4932) between breastfeeding groups.

The mean age of participants was found to be approximately 30 years for women who did not meet AAP guidelines, and 33 years for women who did meet AAP guidelines (p=0.0222). There was a statistically significant difference in BMI of women who did versus did not meet AAP guidelines (p=0.0383). Women who did not meet AAP guidelines were more likely to be African American (p=0.033).

Conclusion: No significant differences in arterial stiffness or blood pressure were found between women who did versus did not meet American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for breastfeeding in their most recent births. As breastfeeding duration had been linked to longer term cardiometabolic outcomes, it is possible that differences in vascular function might emerge over mid-life, rather than 6 months to 3 years post pregnancy. Women who did not meet AAP guidelines were primarily younger, African American, and had a higher BMI. The results of this study call for further investigation.

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