Background: Breastfeeding conveys many benefits, but women often encounter difficulties in the first few weeks. The objective of this study was to examine women's perspectives on the information, advice, and support they receive with breastfeeding.
Methods: A qualitative analysis was conducted of women's responses to open questions about their experiences of breastfeeding support. Participants were recruited as part of a randomized controlled trial of additional support from volunteer breastfeeding counselors, and they completed questionnaires when their babies were 6 weeks old.
Results: Of the 720 women recruited to the trial, 654 began breastfeeding and completed postnatal questionnaires; 492 (75%) participants were first-time mothers and 200 (31%) were of minority ethnic origin. At 6 weeks, 249 (38%) women were exclusively breastfeeding, 183 (28%) were both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, whereas 222 (34%) were exclusively bottle-feeding. Although many women commented positively on their experiences, others thought they did not receive the information and support they needed. Thematic analysis of women's responses to open questions identified five components of the support that women wanted: information about breastfeeding and what to expect, practical help with positioning the baby to breastfeed, effective advice and suggestions, acknowledgment of mothers' experiences and feelings, and reassurance and encouragement.
Conclusions: Maternity services should address the components identified by the study findings as constituting good breastfeeding support. Guidance and information for family members and training for those involved in peer or professional initiatives should take into account women's views on what support they want, together with when and how they want it provided.