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Women's perceptions and experiences of breastfeeding support: A metasynthesis

Schmied, V., Beake, S., Sheehan, A. , McCourt, C. & Dykes, F. (2011). Women's perceptions and experiences of breastfeeding support: A metasynthesis. Birth, 38(1), pp. 49-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-536x.2010.00446.x


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, in order to illuminate the components of support that they deem ‘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. Primiparous and multiparous women who initiated breastfeeding were included. Only studies published in English, in peer reviewed journals and undertaken between 1990 and December 2007 were included. After assessment for relevance and quality, 31 studies were included in the metasynthesis. Meta-ethnographic methods were used to identify categories and themes.

Results: The metasynthesis resulted in four categories comprising a total of 20 themes. The synthesis indicates that support for breastfeeding occurs 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. Second, the synthesis identified a facilitative approach, versus a reductionist approach as contrasting styles of support women experienced as helpful or unhelpful.

Conclusions: The findings of this metasynthesis emphasise the importance of person-centred communication skills and of relationships in supporting a woman to breastfeed. Organisational systems and services that facilitate continuity of care/r, for example continuity of midwifery care or peer support models, are more likely to facilitate an authentic presence.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Metasynthesis, breastfeeding, support, peer support, professional support
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
SWORD Depositor:
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