Aims and objectives. To describe the perceptions of breastfeeding in low-income pregnant women to understand their needs better as they plan to return to work or school.
Background. Maternal employment has a negative impact on breastfeeding duration. Yet there is insufficient research on challenges and facilitators regarding breastfeeding and employment issue among low-income women in the USA. Knowing the perceptions of breastfeeding among low-income pregnant women and their plan to return to work or school may have implications for nurses and midwives in providing quality care.
Design. Qualitative study using focus group interviews.
Methods. The research setting consisted of three Women, Infants and Children clinics (WIC) in a midwestern city of the USA. Seventeen pregnant women (aged 19–35) participated in focus group interviews. Data were coded and analysed for themes and patterns using the QSR software – NVivo 6.
Results. Eleven participants were single. Ten women were primigravida, and seven were multipara. The following five themes were identified: (1) perceived benefits of breastfeeding; (2) general perceptions of breastfeeding; (3) maternal concerns; (4) having the right support; and (5) anticipated challenges of combining breastfeeding and work.
Conclusions. Low-income women anticipated substantial barriers for breastfeeding when they planned to combine breastfeeding and work or school. The results of this study have many implications for public health practice, research and policy. Educating employers and the public at large about the health and economic benefits derived from long-term breastfeeding could help promote breastfeeding awareness.
Relevance to clinical practice. Strategies supporting breastfeeding among low-income working women must be provided at multiple levels to help overcome the barriers they concern. Health care providers should help women gain confidence by minimising their uncertainties and fears about breastfeeding to prepare them to continue breastfeeding successfully after returning to work.