Breastfeeding provides all the necessary energy and nutrients for an infant and provides many benefits for mothers and babies. The effects of colonisation have contributed to reduced prevalence and duration of breastfeeding among Australian Aboriginal women and widespread use of infant formula as a substitute for breastmilk. This review aimed to synthesise qualitative evidence about the factors that influence breastfeeding and infant feeding practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their families.
MEDLINE, CINAHL, Informit and Google Scholar were systematically searched for qualitative studies that included the perspective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their families about the factors influencing infant feeding decisions. Included studies were appraised using an Indigenous quality assessment tool and were synthesised via inductive thematic analysis informed by an ecological framework.
The search identified 968 studies with 7 meeting the inclusion criteria. Key factors influencing breastfeeding and infant feeding practices of Aboriginal women included cultural practices, normalisation of bottle feeding, shame associated with breastfeeding in public, access to culturally safe nutrition education, support services and health professionals, family/partner support, knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding, experiences with previous babies and concern that the baby was not getting enough milk.
The perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women must be considered when providing breastfeeding and infant feeding advice. This can be achieved through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people designing, implementing, and leading the delivery of education and information regarding breastfeeding and health infant feeding practices that have been influenced by the priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.