Breastfeeding is a cost-effective public health intervention that reduces infant morbidity and mortality in developing countries. In Lebanon, breastfeeding exclusivity and continuation rates are disappointingly low. This qualitative study aims at identifying barriers and promoters of breastfeeding in the Lebanese context by exploring mothers' perceptions and experiences in breastfeeding over a one year period.
We conducted focus group discussions in three hospitals in Beirut, Lebanon, and followed up 36 breastfeeding mothers with serial in-depth interviews for one year post-partum or until breastfeeding discontinuation.
Themes generated from baseline interviews revealed several positive and negative perceptions of breastfeeding. Longitudinal follow up identified insufficient milk, fear of weight gain or breast sagging, pain, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, or maternal employment, as reasons for early breastfeeding discontinuation. Women who continued breastfeeding for one year were more determined to succeed and overcome any barrier, relying mostly on family support and proper time management.
Increasing awareness of future mothers about breast feeding difficulties, its benefits to children, mothers, and society at large may further promote breastfeeding, and improve exclusivity and continuation rates in Lebanon. A national strategy for early intervention during school years to increase young women's awareness may improve their self-confidence and determination to succeed in breastfeeding later. Moreover, prolonging maternity leave, having day-care facilities at work, creation of lactation peer support groups and hotlines, and training of doctors and nurses in proper lactation support may positively impact breastfeeding exclusivity and continuation rates. Further research is needed to assess the effectiveness of proposed interventions in the Lebanese context.