The design and conduct of this metasynthesis was partly supported by an international research initiative scheme grant from the University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
Women’s Perceptions and Experiences of Breastfeeding Support: A Metasynthesis
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2010
© 2010, Copyright the Authors. Journal compilation © 2010, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Volume 38, Issue 1, pages 49–60, March 2011
How to Cite
Schmied, V., Beake, S., Sheehan, A., McCourt, C. and Dykes, F. (2011), Women’s Perceptions and Experiences of Breastfeeding Support: A Metasynthesis. Birth, 38: 49–60. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-536X.2010.00446.x
- Issue published online: 18 FEB 2011
- Article first published online: 23 DEC 2010
- Accepted May 4, 2010
- peer support;
- professional support;
Abstract: Background: Both peer and professional support have been identified as important to the success of breastfeeding. The aim of this metasynthesis was to examine women’s perceptions and experiences of breastfeeding support, either professional or peer, to illuminate the components of support that they deemed “supportive.”
Methods: The metasynthesis included studies of both formal or “created” peer and professional support for breastfeeding women but excluded studies of family or informal support. Qualitative studies were included as well as large-scale surveys if they reported the analysis of qualitative data gathered through open-ended responses. Primiparas and multiparas who initiated breastfeeding were included. Studies published in English, in peer-reviewed journals, and undertaken between January 1990 and December 2007 were included. After assessment for relevance and quality, 31 studies were included. Meta-ethnographic methods were used to identify categories and themes.
Results: The metasynthesis resulted in four categories comprising 20 themes. The synthesis indicated that support for breastfeeding occurred along a continuum from authentic presence at one end, perceived as effective support, to disconnected encounters at the other, perceived as ineffective or even discouraging and counterproductive. A facilitative approach versus a reductionist approach was identified as contrasting styles of support that women experienced as helpful or unhelpful.
Conclusions: The findings emphasize the importance of person-centered communication skills and of relationships in supporting a woman to breastfeed. Organizational systems and services that facilitate continuity of caregiver, for example continuity of midwifery care or peer support models, are more likely to facilitate an authentic presence, involving supportive care and a trusting relationship with professionals. (BIRTH 38:1 March 2011)