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Feasibility and acceptability of a brief online self-compassion intervention for mothers of infants

Abstract

To evaluate the acceptability and potential utility of a small package of online resources designed to improve self-compassion for mothers of infants. A within-groups repeated-measures study design was used. A community sample of 262 mothers who were ≤ 24 months post-partum were given access to a set of online resources (two videos plus a tip sheet) that outlined simple techniques for increasing self-compassion drawn from compassion-focused therapy (CFT). Participants completed pre-intervention assessment, followed by post-intervention assessment 1 month later. Assessment included self-report measures of self-compassion, psychological flexibility and shame in the mothering role; symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS) following childbirth; subjective breastfeeding experience; and satisfaction with infant feeding. Overall, 49.8% of participants accessed some or all of the resources, with lack of time the most common barrier to use. The vast majority (96%) agreed that self-compassion is helpful for women experiencing birth or breastfeeding difficulties. t tests examined change in scores from pre- to post-intervention, indicating increases in self-compassion, decreases in PTS symptoms (intrusion, hyperarousal and total PTS score) and improved subjective breastfeeding experience as well as overall satisfaction with breastfeeding. There were no changes in scores for psychological flexibility, shame, or satisfaction with general infant feeding. This pilot study supports the acceptability and potential utility of self-compassion resources, drawn from CFT, to support mothers’ well-being in the first years of their baby’s life. This novel approach to maternal health intervention warrants further exploration, development and testing in future research.

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Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge all the mothers who were involved in this trial. We also acknowledge the support of organisations including the Australian Breastfeeding Association who allowed us to post research study information for parents on their online forums.

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Correspondence to Amy E. Mitchell.

Ethics declarations

Ethics clearance was granted by The University of Queensland Ethics Review Committee.

Conflict of interest

The Parenting and Family Support Centre is partly funded by royalties stemming from published resources of the Triple P–Positive Parenting Program, which is developed and owned by The University of Queensland (UQ). Royalties are also distributed to the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences at UQ and contributory authors of published Triple P resources. Triple P International (TPI) Pty Ltd is a private company licenced by Uniquest Pty Ltd on behalf of UQ, to publish and disseminate Triple P worldwide. The authors of this report have no share or ownership of TPI. Dr Kirby may in future receive royalties from TPI. TPI had no involvement in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of data, or writing of this report. Drs Mitchell, Whittingham, and Kirby are employees at UQ.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of The University of Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

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Mitchell, A.E., Whittingham, K., Steindl, S. et al. Feasibility and acceptability of a brief online self-compassion intervention for mothers of infants. Arch Womens Ment Health 21, 553–561 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-018-0829-y

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Keywords

  • Compassion
  • Mothers
  • Childbirth
  • Breastfeeding
  • Lactation