Lactation Consultants’ Perceived Barriers to Providing Professional Breastfeeding Support

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Abstract

Background:

Addressing suboptimal breastfeeding initiation and duration rates is a priority in the United States. To address challenges to improving these rates, the voices of the providers who work with breastfeeding mothers should be heard.

Research aim:

The purpose of this study was to explore lactation consultants’ perceived barriers to managing early breastfeeding problems.

Methods:

This qualitative study was conducted with a grounded theory methodological approach. In-depth interviews were conducted with 30 International Board Certified Lactation Consultants across Florida. Lactation consultants were from a range of practice settings, including hospitals, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children clinics, private practice, and pediatric offices. Data were digitally recorded, transcribed, and analyzed in Atlas.ti.

Results:

A range of barriers was identified and grouped into the following categories/themes: indirect barriers (social norms, knowledge, attitudes); direct occupational barriers (institutional constraints, lack of coordination, poor service delivery); and direct individual barriers (social support, mother’s self-efficacy). A model was developed illustrating the factors that influence the role enactment of lactation consultants in managing breastfeeding problems.

Conclusion:

Inadequate support for addressing early breastfeeding challenges is compounded by a lack of collaboration among various healthcare providers and the family. Findings provide insight into the professional management issues of early breastfeeding problems faced by lactation consultants. Team-based, interprofessional approaches to breastfeeding support for mothers and their families are needed; improving interdisciplinary collaboration could lead to better integration of lactation consultants who are educated and experienced in providing lactation support and management of breastfeeding problems.

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