Adolescents’ Needs for Nurses’ Support When Initiating Breastfeeding

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Background: Increasing the number of infants who are breastfed has become a worldwide health priority because of the extensively documented health and economic benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and their children. It is unfortunate that adolescents initiate and continue breastfeeding at rates lower than adult women. Health care providers can improve these breastfeeding rates through the social support they offer adolescent mothers as they initiate breastfeeding.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore the needs of adolescents for social support from nurses when initiating breastfeeding.

Methods: Secondary qualitative content analysis of 90 adolescents’ responses to 2 open-ended questions was conducted using social support theory as a framework. The 2 researchers independently categorized each response as informational, instrumental, emotional, and/or appraisal social support.

Results: Adolescent mothers wanted nurses to take the time to explain breastfeeding, answer their questions, and provide consistent information that supported their informational needs. Emotional needs were met as the nurse provided for the adolescents’ privacy, treated them with respect, and stayed calm. Nurses met adolescents’ appraisal support needs through praise and encouragement. Participants valued instrumental support that included being given opportunities to work out breastfeeding under a nurse’s guidance.

Conclusion: Adolescents needed a combination of informational, instrumental, emotional, and appraisal support. Adolescent mothers appreciate and value nurses who take the time to dialogue with them about breastfeeding.