Breastfeeding and family life

Tina Lavender, Catherine McFadden and Lisa Baker
Matern Child Nutr. 2006 Jul;2(3):145-55.


The problems faced by breastfeeding mothers are well documented. However, the influence of social networks has mainly received attention solely through the eyes of the women. Therefore, we explored the views of the family as a whole. This exploratory study utilizes semi-structured interviews, diaries and questionnaires. A purposive sample of 24 women and their families, from a hospital in the north-west of England were invited to participate. Questionnaire data were analysed descriptively. Diaries and interviews were analysed using an open coding mechanism to identify emergent themes. Twenty-three women and 27 of their family members participated. Questionnaire data showed that the majority of women (n = 17) expected to breastfeed for more than 3 months; 12 actually did this. Women anticipated that family members would provide the main source of breastfeeding support. Three main themes emerged from the interviews and diaries: ‘moving with the times’, ‘marketable commodity’ and ‘disparate communications’. The authors conclude that multi-layered approach to breastfeeding promotion and support should be considered. Society needs to proactively encourage a positive breastfeeding culture, family members need direction on how to support a woman to breastfeed and women need to be able to articulate their individual requirements. Midwives could be instrumental in supporting such needs and facilitating change.

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