Developing Maternal Self-Efficacy for Feeding Preterm Babies in the Neonatal Unit



Swanson V, Nicol H, McInnes R, Cheyne H, Mactier H & Callander E (2012) Developing Maternal Self-Efficacy for Feeding Preterm Babies in the Neonatal Unit. Qualitative Health Research, 22 (10), pp. 1369-1382.

Developing maternal self-efficacy offsets negative psychological consequences of premature birth, improving maternal well-being. We investigated women’s experiences in a neonatal unit (NNU) in Scotland in semistructured interviews with 19 primiparous mothers of preterm babies. We explored their experience of preterm birth and development of self-efficacy in infant feeding behaviors, identifying emergent and a priori themes. Women reported experiencing loss and biographical disruption in relation to mothering, loss of autonomy, and searching for normality after premature birth. Providing breast milk symbolized embodied contact with their baby and increased maternal confidence. They developed motivation, knowledge, and perseverance and perceived success from positive feedback, primarily from their baby and health professionals’ support and encouragement. Women actively constructed opportunities to develop ownership, control, and confidence in relation to interactions with their baby. We linked sources of self-efficacy with potential behavior change techniques to be used in practice to improve maternal confidence in the NNU.

behavior change; infants, high-risk; mothers, mothering; qualitative analysis; self-efficacy

Qualitative Health Research: Volume 22, Issue 10

Publication date31/10/2012
Publication date online24/07/2012

People (2)


Professor Helen Cheyne

Professor Helen Cheyne

Personal Chair, NMAHP

Professor Vivien Swanson

Professor Vivien Swanson

Professor, Psychology