Maternal-newborn nurses’ experiences of inconsistent professional breastfeeding support


A.M. Nelson:


Title. Maternal-newborn nurses’ experiences of inconsistent professional breastfeeding support

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to describe the meaning and significance of common, essential elements of inconsistent professional breastfeeding support as revealed through the experiences of maternal-newborn nurses in a hospital.

Background.  Professional breastfeeding support has been found to have a beneficial effect on breastfeeding, although mothers also report that inconsistent professional breastfeeding support has a negative influence on their breastfeeding efforts.

Method.  An existential-phenomenological approach was used, and interviews were conducted with 12 maternal-newborn nurses between October 2005 and January 2006. Interview transcripts were subjected to thematic analysis.

Findings.  Inconsistency in professional breastfeeding support was directly related to the fact that ‘supporting’ breastfeeding is a dynamic, multidimensional process with relational, contextual and situational components. Eight themes were identified: Inconsistencies still exist but things are changing; A need for ‘buy in’; There is no escaping personal experience; What works for one does not work for all; Time impacts recommendations; We have a privileged vantage point; ‘My job’: what it is and what it is not and After all, breastfeeding is a maternal ‘choice’.

Conclusion.  Addressing inconsistent professional breastfeeding support involves understanding the multiple institutional and personal factors that influence this phenomenon. Because multiple practitioners assist each mother-infant dyad in learning to breastfeed, fostering strong collaborative relationships within this support team is essential. Regular opportunities for all team members to dialogue and actively participate in the updating of breastfeeding policies may increase ‘buy in’, promote greater collaboration and decrease both conflict and inconsistencies.