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Supporting Breastfeeding Establishment among Socially Disadvantaged Women: A Meta-Synthesis

MacVicar, Sonya; Kirkpatrick, Pamela; Humphrey, Tracy; Forbes-McKay, Katrina E.


Pamela Kirkpatrick

Tracy Humphrey

Katrina E. Forbes-McKay


Many women from socially disadvantaged groups discontinue breastfeeding in the early postnatal period before lactation is fully established. This suggests that existing health service practices do not adequately meet the breastfeeding support needs of this population. The aim of this meta-synthesis is to review the literature exploring how women from socioeconomically deprived backgrounds experience breastfeeding establishment and to identify factors associated with supportive practice.

The meta-synthesis includes qualitative studies exploring the perception of women from disadvantaged groups of in-hospital and professionally led interventions to support the establishment of breastfeeding. Searches were conducted for studies published between 1992 and 2013; after critical appraisal, eight studies were retained.

Three overarching themes of the influences on maternal perception of the efficacy of breastfeeding support were identified. These included practical skill and knowledge of the breastfeeding process, the influence of psychological factors on perceived breastfeeding ability, and the provision of a person-centered approach to infant feeding support.

The findings illustrate that the factors associated with supportive breastfeeding practice are extensive, complex, and interrelated. Strategies which enable mothers to gain confidence in their ability to successfully breastfeed by acquiring technical expertise, which offer positive encouragement, and which are culturally specific are more likely to be perceived as supportive by women from socially disadvantaged groups.


MacVicar, S., Kirkpatrick, P., Humphrey, T., & Forbes-McKay, K. E. (2015). Supporting Breastfeeding Establishment among Socially Disadvantaged Women: A Meta-Synthesis. Birth, 42(4), 290-298.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 15, 2015
Online Publication Date Aug 10, 2015
Publication Date 2015-12
Deposit Date Oct 17, 2016
Journal Birth
Print ISSN 0730-7659
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Issue 4
Pages 290-298
Keywords breastfeeding; meta-synthesis; social disadvantage; support
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