Breastfeeding support explored through mixed methods: How support groups can function as an effective health intervention
Breastfeeding is an important health issue in the United States, and improving initiation and duration of breastfeeding are part of the Healthy People 2010 goals. However, support is needed by many women to breastfeed successfully. The current study utilizes an exploratory mixed methods design to explore women's experiences with social support and infant feeding methods. In particular, support group participation is examined as a potential contributor to women's breastfeeding success. Participant observation of two breastfeeding support groups and in-depth interviews with 23 participants were conducted for the first phase of the study. This was followed by a survey of women with children under the age of six about their social support resources and experiences feeding their infants. Results show that support group participants breastfeed for significantly longer as a result of their participation in the groups and receive a variety of different types of support in groups. Members also report benefiting from the opportunity to provide support to other mothers and from the chance to share their narratives of their experiences breastfeeding. This paper concludes by discussing the ways in which this study expands our understanding of communal coping, support groups, and health and illness narratives.
0453: Womens studies
0573: Public health