Maternal and health care workers' perceptions of the effects of exclusive breastfeeding by HIV positive mothers on maternal and infant health in Blantyre, Malawi

Ursula K. Kafulafula, Mary K. Hutchinson, Susan Gennaro, Sally Guttmacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: HIV-positive mothers are likely to exclusively breastfeed if they perceive exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) beneficial to them and their infants. Nevertheless, very little is known in Malawi about HIV-positive mothers' perceptions regarding EBF. In order to effectively promote EBF among these mothers, it is important to first understand their perceptions on benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. This study therefore, explored maternal and health care workers' perceptions of the effects of exclusive breastfeeding on HIV-positive mothers' health and that of their infants.Methods: This was a qualitative study within a larger project. Face-to-face in-depth interviews and focus group discussions using a semi- structured interview and focus group guide were conducted. Sixteen HIV-positive breastfeeding mothers, between 18 and 35 years old, were interviewed and data saturation was achieved. Two focus group discussions (FGDs) comprising of five and six adult women of unknown HIV status who were personal assistants to maternity patients, and one FGD with five nurse-midwives working in the maternity wards of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, were also conducted. Thematic content data analysis was utilized.Results: The study revealed more positive than negative perceived effects of exclusive breastfeeding. However, the fear of transmitting HIV to infants through breast milk featured strongly in the study participants' reports including those of the nurse-midwives. Only one nurse-midwife and a few HIV-positive mothers believed that EBF prevents mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Furthermore, participants, especially the HIV-positive mothers felt that exclusive breastfeeding leads to maternal ill- health and would accelerate their progression to full blown AIDS.Conclusion: While most participants considered exclusive breastfeeding as an important component of the wellbeing of their infants' health, they did not share the worldwide acknowledged benefits of exclusive breastfeeding in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. These results suggest a need for more breastfeeding education for all mothers, communities and nurse-midwives involved in breastfeeding counseling in the context of HIV infection. Maternal wellbeing promotion activities such as nutrition supplementation need to be included in all PMTCT of HIV programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number247
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 25 2014

Fingerprint

Malawi
Breast Feeding
Mothers
HIV
Delivery of Health Care
Nurse Midwives
Focus Groups
Infant Health
Maternal Health
Interviews
Human Milk
HIV Infections
Fear
Counseling

Keywords

  • HIV-positive mothers
  • Infant health
  • Malawi
  • Maternal health
  • Perceived effects of exclusive breastfeeding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

Cite this

Maternal and health care workers' perceptions of the effects of exclusive breastfeeding by HIV positive mothers on maternal and infant health in Blantyre, Malawi. / Kafulafula, Ursula K.; Hutchinson, Mary K.; Gennaro, Susan; Guttmacher, Sally.

In: BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, Vol. 14, No. 1, 247, 25.07.2014.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AB - Background: HIV-positive mothers are likely to exclusively breastfeed if they perceive exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) beneficial to them and their infants. Nevertheless, very little is known in Malawi about HIV-positive mothers' perceptions regarding EBF. In order to effectively promote EBF among these mothers, it is important to first understand their perceptions on benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. This study therefore, explored maternal and health care workers' perceptions of the effects of exclusive breastfeeding on HIV-positive mothers' health and that of their infants.Methods: This was a qualitative study within a larger project. Face-to-face in-depth interviews and focus group discussions using a semi- structured interview and focus group guide were conducted. Sixteen HIV-positive breastfeeding mothers, between 18 and 35 years old, were interviewed and data saturation was achieved. Two focus group discussions (FGDs) comprising of five and six adult women of unknown HIV status who were personal assistants to maternity patients, and one FGD with five nurse-midwives working in the maternity wards of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, were also conducted. Thematic content data analysis was utilized.Results: The study revealed more positive than negative perceived effects of exclusive breastfeeding. However, the fear of transmitting HIV to infants through breast milk featured strongly in the study participants' reports including those of the nurse-midwives. Only one nurse-midwife and a few HIV-positive mothers believed that EBF prevents mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Furthermore, participants, especially the HIV-positive mothers felt that exclusive breastfeeding leads to maternal ill- health and would accelerate their progression to full blown AIDS.Conclusion: While most participants considered exclusive breastfeeding as an important component of the wellbeing of their infants' health, they did not share the worldwide acknowledged benefits of exclusive breastfeeding in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. These results suggest a need for more breastfeeding education for all mothers, communities and nurse-midwives involved in breastfeeding counseling in the context of HIV infection. Maternal wellbeing promotion activities such as nutrition supplementation need to be included in all PMTCT of HIV programs.

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