Infant feeding choices: experience, self-identity and lifestyle
Andrew, N. and Harvey, K. N. (2011) Infant feeding choices: experience, self-identity and lifestyle. Maternal and Child Nutrition, 7 (1). pp. 48-60. ISSN 1740-8695
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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2009.00222.x
In England 78% of mothers initiate breastfeeding and in the UK less than 1% exclusively breastfeed until 6 months, despite WHO recommendations to do so. This study investigated women’s infant feeding choices using in-depth interviews with 12 mothers of infants aged 7-18 weeks. Using content analysis, four themes emerged: (1) Information, Knowledge and Decision Making, (2) Physical Capability, (3) Family and Social Influences, (4) Lifestyle, Independence and Self-Identity. Whilst women were aware of the ‘Breast is Best’ message, some expressed distrust in this information if they had not been breastfed themselves. Women felt their own infant feeding choice was influenced by the perceived norm amongst family and friends. Women described how breastfeeding hindered their ability to retain their self-identities beyond motherhood as it limited their independence. Several second-time mothers felt they lacked support from health professionals when breastfeeding their second baby, even if they had previously encountered breastfeeding difficulties. The study indicates that experience of breastfeeding, and belief in the health benefits associated with it are important factors for initiation of breastfeeding, whilst decreased independence and self-identity may influence duration of breastfeeding. Intervention and support schemes should tackle all mothers, not just first-time mothers.