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Open Access Research

Maternal perceptions of partner support during breastfeeding

Cynthia A Mannion1*, Amy J Hobbs1, Sheila W McDonald2 and Suzanne C Tough2

Author Affiliations

1 University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada

2 Child Development Centre, c/o 2888 Shaganappi Trail NW, Calgary, Alberta, T3B 6A8, Canada

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International Breastfeeding Journal 2013, 8:4  doi:10.1186/1746-4358-8-4

Published: 8 May 2013

Abstract

Background

Many women find breastfeeding challenging to sustain beyond the first three postpartum months. Women rely on a variety of resources to aid and encourage breastfeeding, including ‘partner support’. Women’s perception of partner support during breastfeeding may influence maternal satisfaction and confidence but it remains understudied. We asked women about their perceptions of partner support during breastfeeding and measured the effect on maternal confidence, commitment, and satisfaction with respect to breastfeeding.

Methods

Using a descriptive, cross sectional design, we recruited 76 mothers from community health clinics in Calgary, Alberta. Participants completed a questionnaire addressing perceptions of partner support, the Breastfeeding Self-Efficacy Scale (BSES) measuring maternal confidence and ability to breastfeed, and the Hill and Humenick Lactation Scale (HHLS) measuring commitment, perceived infant satiety, and breastfeeding satisfaction. Descriptive analysis was performed on socio-demographic and survey responses. Multiple regression modeling was used to examine the association between partner support and breastfeeding outcomes.

Results

Women who reported active/positive support from their partners scored higher on the BSES (p < 0.019) than those reporting ambivalent/negative partner support when we controlled for previous breastfeeding experience and age of infant. There were no significant differences between the two groups of women on total score of HHLS or any of the subscales with respect to perceptions of partner support.

Conclusion

Mothers feel more capable and confident about breastfeeding when they perceive their partners are supportive by way of verbal encouragement and active involvement in breastfeeding activities. Mothers with partners who seemed ambivalent, motivated only by “what’s best for baby,” or provided negative feedback about breastfeeding, felt less confident in their ability to breastfeed. It is important that health care professionals appreciate the influence that positive and active partner support has upon the development of maternal confidence in breastfeeding, a known predictor for maintaining breastfeeding. Common support strategies could be communicated to both the partner and mother in the prenatal and postpartum periods. Health professionals can provide information, invite partners to become active learners and discuss supportive partner functions. Further research should address those functions that are perceived as most supportive by mothers and that partners are willing to perform.

Keywords:
Breastfeeding; Perceived support; Partner