Developing maternal self-efficacy can counteract the impact of negative psychological consequences of premature birth, improving maternal well-being. A study was carried out to investigate women’s experiences in a neonatal unit (NNU) in Scotland. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 19 primiparous mothers of preterm babies.

The researchers explored their experience of preterm birth and development of self-efficacy in infant feeding behaviors. Women reported experiencing loss and disruption in relation to mothering, loss of autonomy, and searching for normality after premature birth. Providing breastmilk symbolised embodied contact with their baby and increased maternal confidence. The mothers developed motivation, knowledge, and perseverance. They 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.

The researchers conclude that enhancing self-efficacy improves maternal confidence in the NNU.

Swanson V, Nicol H, McInnes R et al (2012). Developing Maternal Self-Efficacy for Feeding Preterm Babies in the Neonatal Unit. Qual Health Res. published 24 July 2012, 10.1177/1049732312451872