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Emotional and informational social support from health visitors and breastfeeding outcomes in the UK

Chambers, A; Emmott, EH; Myers, S; Page, AE; (2023) Emotional and informational social support from health visitors and breastfeeding outcomes in the UK. International Breastfeeding Journal , 18 , Article 14. 10.1186/s13006-023-00551-7. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Shorter breastfeeding duration is associated with detrimental consequences for infant health/development and maternal health. Previous studies suggest social support is essential in maintaining breast/chest-feeding and helping to improve general infant feeding experiences. Public health bodies therefore work to support breastfeeding in the UK, yet UK breastfeeding rates continue to be one of the lowest globally. With this, a better understanding of the effectiveness and quality of infant feeding support is required. In the UK, health visitors (community public health nurses specialising in working with families with a child aged 0–5 years) have been positioned as one of the key providers of breast/chest-feeding support. Research evidence suggests that both inadequate informational support and poor/negative emotional support can lead to poor breastfeeding experiences and early breastfeeding cessation. Thus, this study tests the hypothesis that emotional support from health visitors moderates the relationship between informational support and breastfeeding duration/infant feeding experience among UK mothers. / Methods: We ran cox and binary logistic regression models on data from 565 UK mothers, collected as part of a 2017–2018 retrospective online survey on social support and infant feeding. / Results: Informational support, compared to emotional support, was a less important predictor of both breastfeeding duration and experience. Supportive emotional support with unhelpful or absent informational support was associated with the lowest hazard of breastfeeding cessation before 3 months. Results for breastfeeding experience followed similar trends, where positive experience was associated with supportive emotional and unhelpful informational support. Negative experiences were less consistent; however, a higher probability of negative experience was found when both types of support were reported as unsupportive. / Conclusions: Our findings point to the importance of health visitors providing emotional support to bolster the continuation of breastfeeding and encourage a positive subjective experience of infant feeding. The emphasis of emotional support in our results encourages increased allocation of resources and training opportunities to ensure health visitors are able to provide enhanced emotional support. Lowering health visitors caseloads to allow for personalised care is just one actionable example that may improve breastfeeding outcomes in the UK.

Type: Article
Title: Emotional and informational social support from health visitors and breastfeeding outcomes in the UK
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s13006-023-00551-7
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1186/s13006-023-00551-7
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s) 2023. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativeco mmons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Keywords: Infant feeding, Social support, Breast/chest-feeding, Health visitors, UK
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10169630
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