Early breastfeeding experiences influence parental self-efficacy

F.C. Kunseler, M.A. Hankel, K.E. Balm, M. Oosterman, C. Schuengel

Research output: Contribution to JournalMeeting AbstractOther research output


Parental self-efficacy (PSE) is defined as "the expectation caregivers hold about their ability to parent successfully" (Jones & Prinz, 2005, p. 342). According to Bandura (1977), self-efficacy is based on four sources, including ‘performance accomplishments’: if successful experiences are repeated this can lead to increases in efficacy expectations, while repeated failures can lead to decreases. With respect to parenting, breastfeeding is one of the first experiences mothers have with their infants. Previous studies showed that self-efficacy is an important predictor of the duration and level of breastfeeding (e.g. O’Brien, Buikstra, Fallon, & Hegney, 2009). However, it can also be suggested that the association between breastfeeding and PSE is bidirectional. Based on the theoretical framework of Bandura, it could be argued that successful experiences with breastfeeding are related to an early sense of efficacy in parenting and therefore to an increase in PSE. As part of an ongoing longitudinal study 205 primiparous expecting women completed questionnaires on breastfeeding and parental self-efficacy (the Maternal Self-Efficacy in the
Nurturing Role Questionnaire) at 32 weeks of pregnancy (T1) and 3 months after birth (T2). Prenatally (at T1), these mothers stated that they would prefer to breastfeed as opposed to bottle-feed their infants. With respect to the postnatal breastfeeding questionnaire (at T2), mothers rated on 5-point Likert scales whether they 1) experienced breastfeeding as very difficult to very easy and 2) whether they experienced breastfeeding as very tiring to not tiring. The preliminary results of two hierarchical regression analyses, with PSE T1 scores entered first, indicated that mothers who experienced breastfeeding as easier or less tiring increased in PSE from T1 to T2 (respectively = .16, p < .05 and = .18, p < .01). PSE scores at both time points were not related to breastfeeding at T2. A subset of the mothers (n = 77) stopped to breastfeed their infants before three months of age. The mothers who indicated that they stopped earlier than planned had marginally lower PSE scores at T2 as opposed to mothers who did not stop earlier than planned (p = .08). For health care practices, the current findings emphasize the importance of supporting mothers’ early experiences with breastfeeding, especially since success-based efficacy beliefs are related to positive parenting and child outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-27
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventWorld Association for Infant Mental Health 13th Biennial World Congress -
Duration: 17 Apr 201221 Apr 2012


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