Exploring women’s views of breastfeeding: a focus group study within an area with high levels of socio-economic deprivation

Alison McFadden and Glenyce Toole
Matern Child Nutr. 2006 Jul;2(3):156-68.


There is ample evidence of the short- and long-term health benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and infants, yet breastfeeding rates remain low in the UK, particularly in areas of high social deprivation. It is imperative that appropriate strategies are utilized to support more women to initiate and continue breastfeeding. This study used focus group methodology to explore women’s views in relation to breastfeeding.
The study was conducted within an area with high levels of socio-economic deprivation in the north-east of England and aimed to identify local barriers to breastfeeding, influences on choice of infant-feeding method and strategies which might improve breastfeeding rates. Focus group discussions were conducted with low-income women, adolescent women and women from a minority ethnic group. The five key themes that emerged from the data were: society’s negative attitudes towards breastfeeding; the influence of family and friends and the experience on choice of method of infant feeding; lack of knowledge of some aspects of infant feeding; perceptions of professional support; and women’s positive and negative experiences of breastfeeding. Recommendations for promoting and supporting breastfeeding include improving facilities to breastfeed in public, enhancing the provision of information, addressing conflicting advice and poor professional practice and implementing support mechanisms. The findings and recommendations have been used to develop a breastfeeding strategy to meet local needs. This project was funded by the English Department of Health Infant Feeding Initiative.

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