Background: Maternal breastfeeding self-efficacy (BSE) is reflective of a mother's confidence in breastfeeding and is a modifiable factor that may improve breastfeeding rates. Breastfeeding self-efficacy theory purports that women with higher BSE will have better breastfeeding outcomes. Research aim: The aim of this systematic review was to explore the theoretical link between BSE and breastfeeding outcomes by investigating (a) if interventions to improve BSE were successful and (b) if improvements in BSE resulted in improved breastfeeding rates.
Methods: The authors performed a systematic search of 10 databases for studies that investigated the effect of interventions for mothers of full-term infants on BSE and breastfeeding rates. They used an inverse-variance, random-effects meta-analysis.
Results: Of 1,366 titles and abstracts identified, 58 full-text articles were screened and 11 met the study criteria. Compared with mothers in control groups, mothers in intervention groups had significantly higher BSE, scoring 4.86 points higher, 95% confidence interval [3.11, 6.61], at 2 months postpartum. Mothers in the intervention groups were 1.56 and 1.66 times more likely to be breastfeeding at 1 month and 2 months postpartum, respectively. Interventions that were implemented in the postpartum period, used combined delivery settings, or were informed by BSE theory had the greatest influence on breastfeeding outcomes. Meta-regression indicated that for each 1-point increase in the mean BSE score between the intervention and control groups, the odds of exclusive breastfeeding increased by 10% in the intervention group.
Conclusion: Breastfeeding self-efficacy is a modifiable factor that practitioners can target to improve breastfeeding rates in mothers of full-term infants.
Keywords: breastfeeding; breastfeeding duration; breastfeeding promotion; breastfeeding rates; breastfeeding support; exclusive breastfeeding.