Breastfeeding Self-efficacy: A Critical Review of Available Instruments

Emily L. Tuthill, Jacqueline M. McGrath, Melanie Graber, Regina M. Cusson, Sera L. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Increasing breastfeeding rates in the United States is a national priority. Yet, initiation and duration of breastfeeding remains below national targets. Breastfeeding self-efficacy has been shown to be a strong predictor of both breastfeeding initiation and duration and is therefore an important characteristic to be able to measure. However, there is currently a myriad of instruments for measuring breastfeeding self-efficacy, which makes selection of an appropriate instrument difficult. Thus, our aim was to identify, compare, and critically review available breastfeeding self-efficacy instruments. In a systematic review, 6 breastfeeding self-efficacy instruments were identified. The instruments' purposes, theoretical framework, final scale development, and application in 5 most recent settings were analyzed. The 6 breastfeeding self-efficacy instruments apply a number of theoretical and conceptual frameworks in their development, with Bandura's social cognitive theory being most common. Content, construct, and predictive validity were strong for most scales. Some, but not all, have been successfully adapted to novel settings. In sum, there are several measurements of breastfeeding self-efficacy that can and should be employed to better understand reasons for suboptimal breastfeeding rates and the effects of interventions on breastfeeding self-efficacy. Instrument selection should be based on domains of primary interest, time available, peripartum timing, and assessment of previous adaptations. Failure to apply appropriate measures in research may garner results that are inconclusive, inaccurate, or nonrepresentative of true study effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Human Lactation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • affective instruments
  • breastfeeding
  • human milk
  • instruments
  • measurement
  • psychometric testing
  • review
  • self-efficacy
  • survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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