Grandmother breastfeeding support: what do mothers need and want?

Birth. 2008 Dec;35(4):329-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-536X.2008.00260.x.


Background: Grandmothers are an important source of support for new mothers. Their infant feeding experience and knowledge can influence mothers' decisions to initiate and continue breastfeeding. The objective of this study was to explore mothers' perceptions of grandmothers' breastfeeding knowledge and support, as part of a larger study to design an intervention that facilitates the development of grandmothers' support of breastfeeding.

Methods: Thirty mothers participated in one of four focus groups held in a North Texas metropolitan area. We analyzed the text of each focus group interview using the content analysis method and identified five themes within and across groups that described mothers' perceptions of grandmother breastfeeding support.

Results: The essence of what mothers needed and wanted from grandmothers could be summarized as grandmother breastfeeding advocacy, which is defined by the two themes, "valuing breastfeeding" and "loving encouragement." Three other themes, "acknowledging barriers,""confronting myths," and "current breastfeeding knowledge," reflected mothers' perceptions of what grandmothers need to become their advocates, particularly if they did not breastfeed their own children.

Conclusions: Breastfeeding occurs within the context of an extended family in which grandmothers bring their own infant feeding practices and beliefs to their support of new mothers. Mothers need and want grandmothers' support, but their advice and concerns may reflect cultural beliefs that do not protect breastfeeding. Including grandmothers in conversations about breastfeeding practices can be one way for health caregivers to enhance grandmothers' knowledge and support of breastfeeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infant Care / methods*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Mothers / education
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Texas