Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Jackson, Kimberley


Indigenous peoples in Canada experience poorer health outcomes than the rest of the Canadian population. Indigenous populations face higher rates of morbidity and mortality from preventable infections and diseases. Breastfeeding is recognized as the optimal form of infant feeding with several health benefits for both infants and mothers who breastfeed. However, Indigenous women have lower breastfeeding rates than non-Indigenous women. Research has identified the need to increase programs and services to better support breastfeeding rates among Indigenous women. Nurses have the potential to offer interventions to support breastfeeding throughout the perinatal period. This scoping review explored the role of the nurse in breastfeeding support in Indigenous populations in Canada. This research identified both the gaps in practice as well as the positive interventions being implemented by Canadian nurses.

Summary for Lay Audience

Indigenous peoples in Canada experience worse health outcomes than non-Indigenous Canadians. Throughout Canadian history, racist processes and systems were created that resulted in the maltreatment of Indigenous peoples. The harm inflicted upon this population has carried forward to present day through ongoing forms of discrimination and trauma passed throughout generations. The current and historical harm inflicted on Indigenous peoples has resulted in poorer health outcomes as it has created barriers to achieving wellness.

The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages breastfeeding as the favourable method of infant feeding. Breastfeeding can protect infants and mothers who breastfeed from a variety of short-term and long-term illnesses. Vulnerable populations, including Indigenous populations in Canada have lower rates of breastfeeding. This can cause increased rates of illness and in some instances, premature death in infants and children. Research has suggested offering more programs to support Indigenous women with breastfeeding. It is important to recognize the nurse plays an important role in assisting mothers with breastfeeding.

Guidelines for conducting a scoping review by Arksey and O’Malley were followed to complete this research. This included finding and reviewing studies that related to the topic of breastfeeding support for Indigenous women in Canada. The studies that were eligible for inclusion were reviewed and data regarding the role of the nurse in supporting breastfeeding were collected and analyzed. This scoping review found how nurses are supporting breastfeeding among Indigenous populations and uncovered both the positive and negative practices taking place. Nurses have offered breastfeeding promotion activities, including education and hands-on support. This research also uncovered areas where nursing practice can improve to better support breastfeeding among Indigenous women, such as enhancing the quality of care and promoting culturally safe methods of care.

Available for download on Thursday, November 14, 2024