Aim. This paper reports a study whose primary aim was to explore the relationship between social support for first-time mothers and their confidence in infant care practices. A secondary aim was to identify their sources of support in the postnatal period.
Background. Policy documents emphasize the importance of support for new mothers in the postnatal period in caring for their infants. Nurses/midwives require a working knowledge of how social support influences maternal confidence in infant care practices, specifically during the first 6 weeks postdelivery.
Methods. A descriptive, correlational design was used. A 28 item questionnaire was designed to measure social support in the specific context of first-time motherhood and confidence in infant care practices. Content validity was sought and the instrument demonstrated reliability using Cronbach's alpha. A convenience sample of 135 first-time mothers was recruited and 74% completed questionnaires at 6 weeks after birth. Data were collected in 2000.
Results. Appraisal support had a statistically significant moderate relationship with confidence in infant care practices (r = 0·4, P < 0·01). Informational support had a weaker but statistically significant relationship (r = 0·2, P < 0·05). Respondents’ primary sources of appraisal support were husbands/partners and their own mothers. Public health nurses and mothers were primary sources of informational support.
Conclusions. First-time mothers’ husbands/partners need to become active participants in antenatal and postnatal care. Interdisciplinary educational programmes need to be developed so that public health nurses and midwives work collaboratively in facilitating social support for first-time mothers in caring for their infants. Curricula for public health nurses and midwives need to be evidenced-based with respect to social support.