”I was meant to be able to do this”: women’s experiences of breastfeeding. A phenomenological study

SPENCER, Rachael, GREATREX-WHITE, S and FRASER, D.M. (2014). ”I was meant to be able to do this”: women’s experiences of breastfeeding. A phenomenological study. Evidence Based Midwifery, 12 (3), 83-88.

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Introduction. There is strong evidence demonstrating that human breastmilk provides complete nutrition for human infants. While the rate of initiation of breastfeeding in the UK has increased steadily over the last 25 years, rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the early weeks and months over the same time period have shown only marginal increases. Method. An interpretive phenomenological approach informed by the philosophy of Martin Heidegger was adopted. The aim was to understand women’s experience of breastfeeding. Women were recruited from one city in the East Midlands in the UK, where the prevalence of breastfeeding is decreasing. Potential participants were recruited via health visitors at the primary birth visit. Ethical approval was received from the university and NHS research ethics committees. Data were collected between three and six months after the birth of their youngest child and analysis was guided by interpretive phenomenological principles. Findings. The women were found to be ill-prepared for the realities of breastfeeding and, for most women, the shock of this experience was overwhelming. In particular there was a lack of understanding and preparation for common problems and a lack of awareness of newborn behaviour. Misunderstandings of newborn behaviour resulted in the women blaming infantfeeding behaviours, such as crying, wakeful states and cluster feeding, on the specific method of infant-feeding. Frequent feeding cues were overwhelming and the women felt overawed by the sense of responsibility. It also led them to question their ability to provide an adequate milk supply. Discussion. The extent to which inadequate preparation for breastfeeding had a negative impact on the breastfeeding experiences of women in this study was a surprise. Antenatal education should focus more on preparing women for the realities. Education and support for breastfeeding women need to encompass infant-feeding cues and infant behaviours.

Item Type: Article
Departments - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Health and Well-being > Department of Nursing and Midwifery
Page Range: 83-88
Depositing User: Rachael Spencer
Date Deposited: 17 May 2018 15:42
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 11:45
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/21071

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