Infant feeding choices: experience, self-identity and lifestyle

Authors

  • Naomi Andrew,

    1. School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Earley Gate, Whiteknights Campus, Reading, Berks, RG6 6AL, UK
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  • Kate Harvey

    1. School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Earley Gate, Whiteknights Campus, Reading, Berks, RG6 6AL, UK
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Naomi Andrew, School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Earley Gate, Whiteknights Campus, Reading, Berks, RG6 6AL. E-mail: n.c.andrew@reading.ac.uk

Abstract

In England, 78% of mothers initiate breastfeeding and, in the UK, less than 1% exclusively breastfeed until 6 months, despite World Health Organization (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. While 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 among 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, while decreased independence and self-identity may influence duration of breastfeeding. Intervention and support schemes should tackle all mothers, not just first-time mothers.

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