Beth Olson

f_bolsonAssociate Professor
Ph.D – Nutrition, University of California at Davis
M.S. – Nutriton, University of California at Davis
B.S. – Biochemistry, University of WIsconsin at Madison


Emphasis Group:
Human Nutrition

Principal Research Interest:
Breastfeeding support for low-income and working women, improving infant feeding practices in low income families

Research Summary:

Research has shown lower breastfeeding rates in women working full time compared with those working part time or not employed. Limited research has shown the difficulties encountered by women seeking to combine breastfeeding and employment, but almost no research has been done to determine how the environment within companies influence women’s perceptions of the appropriateness of returning to work as a breastfeeding mother, or what components of that environment are most important in encouraging or discouraging a these new mother employees in attempts to combine breastfeeding and work. We have been funded by USDA to investigate this workplace environment. We have developed three instruments for this investigation: an assessment of new mother employees’ perceptions, a survey of company policies and practices on breastfeeding support, and an assessment of manager attitudes toward breastfeeding support. We recently used these three instruments in a sample of Michigan, Oregon and Washington companies to assess workplace climate, and the determinants and interactions among components of these climates as viewed by new mother employees in the companies.

Our laboratory has also done program evaluation to determine the best way to target breastfeeding support to low income women.

Extension nutrition education programs have not historically focused on nutrition education with infants, in part due to lack of training and curriculum on infant feeding. We have developed an education curriculum to improve infant feeding practices among low-income women in the first months of their infant’s life. We have used the curriculum in an infant feeding intervention in low income African American and Hispanic Women in Michigan and Colorado, through the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Programs (EFNEP) in both states. This work is necessary to demonstrate the effectiveness of this curriculum in improving infant feeding practices. Taken together, our work in improving understanding of breastfeeding and breastfeeding support in low income and working women, and infant feeding practices up through the first year of life, will provide knowledge, tools and education needed for families to begin the feeding of their children in the most healthy way possible.

Representative Publications

Haider SJ, Chang LV, Bolton TA, Gold JG, Olson BH. An Evaluation of the Effects of a Peer Counseling Breastfeeding Support Program on Infant Health Outcomes. Health Services Research. [Epub ahead of print DOI: 10.1111/1475-6773.12199].

Rozga MR‡, Kerver JM, Olson BH. Impact of peer counselling breast-feeding support programme protocols on any and exclusive breast-feeding discontinuation in low-income women. Public Health Nutrition. 2014 May 8:1-11. [Epub ahead of print]

Horodynski MA, Baker S, Van Egeren L, Olson B, Brophy-Herb H, Auld G. The Healthy Babies Curriculum. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2014. 46:151-2.

Momin SR‡, Chung KR, Olson BH. A Qualitative Study to Understand Positive and Negative Child Feeding Behaviors of Immigrant Asian Indian Mothers in the US.Maternal and Child Health J. 2013 Dec 15. [Epub ahead of print]

Fischer TP‡, Olson BH. A Qualitative Study to Understand Cultural Factors Affecting a Mother’s Decision to Breast or Formula Feed. Journal of Human Lactation. 2014. 30(2):209-16

Chow T, Wolfe EW, Olson BH. Development, Content Validity and Piloting of an Instrument Designed to Measure Managers’ Attitude Toward Workplace Breastfeeding Support. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012. 11:1042-1047.

Hojnacki S, Bolton T, Fulmer IS, Olson BH. Development and Piloting of an Instrument that Measures Company Support for Breastfeeding.  Journal of Human Lactation 2012. 28: 20-27.

Horodynski MA, Olson B, Baker S, Brophy-Herb H, Auld G, Van Egeren L, Lindau J, Singleterry L. Healthy Babies through Infant-Centered Feeding Protocol: An Intervention Targeting Early Childhood Obesity in Vulnerable Populations.  BMC Public Health. 2011, 11: 868.

Chow T, Fulmer IS, Olson BH. Perspectives of Managers Toward Workplace Breastfeeding Support in the State of Michigan. Journal of Human Lactation. 2011. 27(2):138-146.

Olson BH, Haider SJ, Vangjel MA, Bolton TA, Gold JG.  A Quasi Experimental Evaluation of a Breastfeeding Support Program for Low Income Women.  Maternal and Child Health Journal. 2010.

Olson BH, Horodynski MA, Brophy-Herb HE, Iwanski K.  Health Professionals’ Perspectives on the Infant Feeding Practices of Low Income Mothers.  Maternal and Child Health Journal. 2010.

Bolton TA, Chow T, Benton PA, Olson BH. Characteristics Associated With Longer Breastfeeding Duration: An Analysis of a Peer Counseling Support Program.  Journal of Human Lactation. 2009.

Brophy-Herb HE, Silk K, Horodynski MA, Mercer L, Olson BH. Key theoretical frameworks for intervention: Understanding and Promoting Behavior Change in Parent-Infant Feeding Choices in a Low-Income Population. Journal of Primary Prevention. 2009. 30:191-208.

Horodynski M, Olson BH, Brophy-Herb H, Silk K, & Shirer K. The Infant Feeding Series (TIFS) Curriculum. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2008. 40:187-8. Contribution to (a) conceptualization 30% (b) methodology and analysis 50% (c) writing 25%

Greene S, Wolfe E, Olson BH.  Assessing the Validity of Measures of an Instrument Designed to Measure Female Employees’ Perceptions of Workplace Breastfeeding Support.   Breastfeeding Medicine. 2008. 3:159-63.

Greene S, Olson BH. The Development of an Instrument to Measure Female Employees’ Perceptions of Workplace Breastfeeding Support.  Breastfeeding Medicine. 2008. 3:151-7.