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Introduction: Despite the proven benefits of breastfeeding, there are a variety of reasons why many women do not, or cannot, breastfeed their children. Adolescent mothers are even less likely to breastfeed than non-adolescent mothers. The aim of this review was to synthesize the current literature on breastfeeding practices in adolescent mothers and explore the factors influencing their breastfeeding decisions.

Methods: A literature search was conducted in January 2018 using PubMed. Studies were included in the review if they discussed adolescent mothers’ views and experiences of breastfeeding or if they reporting breastfeeding rates among adolescent mothers. For this review, adolescence was defined as the ages between 13 and 21.

Results: Of the 19 studies selected, each study was summarized and analyzed to determine that the proportion of adolescent mothers who breastfeed is lower than non-adolescent mothers: 31-100% initiated breastfeeding, 17-64% breastfed exclusively, and more than half stopped within the first month. Intention to breastfeed, social support and maternity care support were positive predictors of breastfeeding behaviors. Although significant effects of the interventions aimed at improving breastfeeding rates was revealed by this review, findings also indicated analytical themes related to adolescents’ breastfeeding knowledge, attitudes, and barriers that are unique to their age group.

Conclusions: This review highlights that adolescents have limited breastfeeding knowledge, unique attitudes, and face a variety of barriers to breastfeeding, including returning to school, social stigma, the physical demands of breastfeeding and unease with the act of breastfeeding. These findings indicate that developmentally sensitive education and support is fundamental to effective interventions aimed to increase breastfeeding rates among adolescent mothers.

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