Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Ellen M. Daley

Co-Major Professor

Martha Coulter


breastfeeding, family-centered care, grounded theory, interprofessional collaboration, lactation consultants, maternal and child health


Addressing the sub-optimal breastfeeding initiation and duration rates has become a national priority. Inadequate support for addressing early breastfeeding challenges is compounded by a lack of collaboration between providers such as lactation professionals, nurses, pediatricians, and the family. The purpose of this exploratory study was to understand International Board Certified Lactation Consultants' (IBCLCs) perceived barriers to managing early breastfeeding problems. This qualitative study was guided by the symbolic interactionist framework through a grounded theory methodological approach. In-depth interviews were conducted with 30 IBCLCs from across Florida. IBCLCs were from a range of practice settings, including hospitals, WIC clinics, private practice, and pediatric offices. Data were digitally recorded, transcribed, and analyzed in Atlas.ti. A range of barriers were identified and grouped into the following categories: indirect barriers such as social norms, knowledge, attitudes; direct occupational barriers such as institutional constraints, lack of coordination, and poor service delivery; and direct individual barriers including social support and mother's self-efficacy. A model was developed to illustrate the factors that influence the role enactment of IBCLCs in terms of managing breastfeeding problems. IBCLCs overwhelmingly wish to be perceived as valued members of a health care team, but often find interprofessional collaboration is a struggle. However, IBCLCs find creative strategies to navigate challenges and describe their role as pivotal in empowering mothers and their families to meet their breastfeeding goals. Though rarely actualized, IBCLCs place strong value on coordinated, team approaches to breastfeeding management that employ transparent communication between providers and focus on empowering and educating mothers. Strategies for better collaboration and communication between IBCLCs and other providers are needed. Findings provide insight into the management issues of early breastfeeding problems and may lead to future interventions to reduce early weaning, thus increasing the lifelong health benefits of breastfeeding to the infant and mother.

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