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Keywords:

  • breastfeeding;
  • lactation;
  • breast milk expression;
  • breastfeeding duration;
  • breastfeeding knowledge;
  • breastfeeding support

Abstract

Exclusive breastfeeding provides optimal nutrition through 6 months. Recent research has shown that milk expression may affect breastfeeding duration. A woman's experience with milk expression might mediate the effect of milk expression on breastfeeding duration. The objective of this study was to develop a measure to evaluate women's experiences of expressing milk. Based on the available literature, we developed a brief measure of the Breast Milk Expression Experience (BMEE) assessing three dimensions: (1) social support for milk expression; (2) ease of learning how to express milk; and (3) personal experiences of milk expression. All items used 1–5 Likert scales, with higher scores indicating better experiences. We administered the items immediately after expression to 68 mothers who expressed milk post-partum. We evaluated this measure for reliability using Cronbach's alpha. Mothers completing the BMEE were 57% primiparous with 75% vaginal births. The BMEE demonstrated appropriate reliability with a Cronbach's alpha of 0.703 for the summary index and 0.719–0.763 for social support, learning experience and personal experience subscales. The BMEE also indicated good predictive validity; of the six mothers who had a mean score <3 on the 11-item scale post-partum, two (33.3%) were expressing breast milk at 1 month, compared with 37 (80.4%) of the 46 mothers who had a mean score ≥3 on the 11-item scale post-partum (P = 0.012). The BMEE is a promising measure of milk expression experience in this population. Use of this measure may allow improved understanding of women's experiences expressing milk.