Breastfeeding support at an Australian Breastfeeding Association drop-in service: a descriptive survey
Elaine Burns, Louise Duursma, Zoi Triandafilidis
BackgroundIn Australia, during the early establishment phase of breastfeeding, women can access telephone peer support counselling provided by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) however options for face-to-face peer support are limited. The known factors which improve ongoing and exclusive breastfeeding include face-to-face support, peer and/or professional support, and trained personnel. This study aimed to examine women's experiences of accessing one breastfeeding drop-in peer
... ort service provided by trained peer support volunteer counsellors from the ABA.MethodsWomen who accessed the service were invited, in 2014, to participate in an anonymous online survey which collected both quantitative and qualitative data. Participants were asked about their experiences of breastfeeding support, as well as their experiences of the drop-in service. In total, 53 women completed the online survey, and subsequent analysis generated descriptive statistics and qualitative themes.ResultsResponses to the survey revealed that women attended the drop-in service with infants ranging in age from less than 1 week through to 12 months of age. Most women reported attending with infants aged 0-8 weeks of age (72%). The predominant presenting problems identified were sore/damaged nipples, difficulties with infant latching to the breast, or concerns about using nipple shields. Analysis of the open text qualitative responses revealed one overarching theme 'Support to continue breastfeeding' and four subthemes: 'feeling listened to and not judged'; 'emotional support and confidence building'; 'the importance of face-to-face, practical support'; and 'the need for ongoing, free access'.DiscussionIn this study many women were seeking support for ongoing breastfeeding difficulties. Health professionals who had limited breastfeeding knowledge and skills were identified as most unhelpful in providing support with ongoing breastfeeding difficulties. Women valued having access to trained peer counsellors, who had the capacity to provide non-judgemental, face-to-face support; who could sit through a feed; in a space that was 'safe'; and who could enhance a woman's confidence with breastfeeding over the course of her full breastfeeding journey. ConclusionReactive peer support, provided in response to need, at an Australian Breastfeeding Association drop-in service, was described by participants as pivotal to enabling their ongoing breastfeeding.