The Role of Early Maternal Support in Balancing Full-Time Work and Infant Exclusive Breastfeeding: A Qualitative Study

Lea Pounds, Christopher M. Fisher, Debora Barnes-Josiah, Jason D. Coleman, R. Craig Lefebvre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Introduction: Support of others is a key factor for mothers who choose to breastfeed their infants, including those who balance work outside the home and breastfeeding. However, little research has been done to understand how maternal support during the postpartum period impacts mothers' ability to later balance work and breastfeeding, in particular full-time work and exclusive breastfeeding. The results of this qualitative study indicate that the timing of support plays a key role in mothers' ability to successfully overcome barriers during the early postpartum period, thus building maternal self-efficacy in addressing problems encountered when they return to work. Methods: To understand the experience of low-income women who successfully balance full-time work and exclusive breastfeeding for the recommended 6 months, interviews were conducted with women who met study criteria for income level, work status, and exclusive breastfeeding. Breastfeeding peer counselors were also interviewed as key informants. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded for themes. The results of both sets of interviews were triangulated with a focused literature review to assure the soundness of the qualitative analysis. Results: Timing of support included acute support, such as help establishing a successful latch needed during the first 2 weeks after delivery, to deal with breastfeeding problems that mothers perceived as being mentally and emotionally overwhelming and longer-term support needed to overcome problems perceived as being less intense. Conclusions: The research invites further exploration into the relationship between breastfeeding support provided by mothers' support system, including healthcare professionals, during the postpartum period and rates of breastfeeding duration and exclusivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-38
Number of pages6
JournalBreastfeeding Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • breastfeeding duration
  • breastfeeding exclusivity
  • breastfeeding support
  • infant feeding
  • maternal self-efficacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Health Policy
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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