Background: the World Health Organization recommends that all infants worldwide are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life for optimal health and development. However, very few women worldwide are meeting this recommendation. Psychosocial factors have been identified as potentially modifiable factors implicated in a woman's ability to successfully exclusively breastfeed, however there is very limited research examining these factors specifically for exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months duration.
Methods: a search of psychological, nursing and medical databases was conducted in June 2011 for studies published from 2000 to 2011 examining psychological correlates of exclusive breastfeeding to four to 6 months duration. Results: nine papers from eight studies were found to be eligible for the review. Psychological factors have been reported to be highly predictive of exclusive breastfeeding outcomes. Research to date shows that psychosocial factors are not only importantly implicated in exclusive breastfeeding duration but they can also be changed through intervention and experiences.
Conclusions: while there is a wealth of literature on the role of psychosocial factors in breastfeeding, there is very limited research specifically examining the role of psychosocial factors of exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months duration. Interpreting the results of the available literature is difficult due to the various methodologies and definitions of exclusive breastfeeding and small sample sizes. Further research, specifically, longitudinal cohort studies are needed which examine psychological determinants of exclusive breastfeeding and infant feeding methods from pregnancy through to 6 months postpartum. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.