The Impact of Antenatal Breastfeeding Education on Young Women’s Breastfeeding Self-efficacy and Breastfeeding Rates
Background: Despite the known benefits of breastfeeding to the mother, baby and society as a whole, young women’s breastfeeding rates are generally poor compared to older mothers. Effective antenatal education has been identified as one way to improve these rates. Whether or not antenatal breastfeeding education for young women can make a significant impact on their breastfeeding success is of paramount concern in this research. An important and modifiable variable, identified in the literature as influencing breastfeeding outcomes, is self-efficacy (confidence in ability to breastfeed). This breastfeeding self-efficacy in young mothers is of great interest due to this group and their infants being vulnerable in terms of breastfeeding initiation and continuation. Aim: This study aimed to identify the effects of antenatal breastfeeding education on the self-efficacy, experience and duration of breastfeeding for young women. It also aimed to replicate aspects of prior research in this area conducted overseas to see if those findings could be generalized to a New Zealand setting. Method: A repeated measure design using an existing validated tool was utilised to quantify breastfeeding self-efficacy, prior to and following, an antenatal breastfeeding education session for young pregnant women aged less than 25 years old. Findings: Breastfeeding antenatal education improved breastfeeding self-efficacy scores in urban young women less than 25 years of age. The Breastfeeding Self-efficacy Scale (short form), was found to be a reliable tool to test this. Whilst initiation rates were high in this group, there was no statistically significant link with breastfeeding self-efficacy and the duration and continuation of breastfeeding. Conclusion: Whilst breastfeeding antenatal education was shown to increase breastfeeding self-efficacy, there are many confounding factors influencing breastfeeding initiation and continuation for young women. The findings have contributed to the knowledge about breastfeeding patterns of young New Zealand women. It may be that despite international findings, an increased breastfeeding self-efficacy in this setting doesn’t impact on the rates of breastfeeding of urban New Zealand young mothers. Further research with an increased sample size and comparison groups is warranted.