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Breastfeeding support – the importance of self-efficacy for low-income women

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Breastfeeding is a key determinant in promoting public health and reducing health inequality. Low-income women have a significantly lower level of breastfeeding. Midwives in the UK have been encouraged to implement the World Health Organization/United Nations Children's Fund's Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, but to date, there has been no evaluation of the impact of the training initiative on the breastfeeding behaviours of low-income women.

As part of a wider study, this qualitative component was designed to answer the question – what are the views and experiences of low-income women (defined by Jarman scores) in relation to their breastfeeding support received in the post-natal period?

A sample of seven women was interviewed. The in-depth interviews were analysed using a qualitative, thematic approach based on the self-efficacy theory. The four themes that emerged from the data were the following: breastfeeding related to the woman's self-confidence, the social environment in which the woman lived, knowledge of breastfeeding and the influence of maternity services on breastfeeding outcomes. These themes were interpreted in relation to the self-efficacy theory.

The findings suggest that the components that inform self-efficacy are consistent with the themes from the data, suggesting that midwives and other health professionals should take the psychosocial aspects of breastfeeding support into account. As this important feature of breastfeeding support is not explicitly part of the current Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, we suggest that further research and debate could inform expansion of these minimum standards to include the psychosocial aspects.

Keywords: WHO/UNICEF breastfeeding initiative; breastfeeding; low income; midwives' training; self-efficacy

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Centre for Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC), University of Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire, UK, 2: Department of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire, UK, and

Publication date: July 1, 2010

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