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Women’s experiences of ceasing to breastfeed: Australian qualitative study


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Ayton, JE ORCID: 0000-0003-0092-437X, Tesch, L and Hansen, E ORCID: 0000-0003-4733-3411 2019 , 'Women’s experiences of ceasing to breastfeed: Australian qualitative study' , BMJ Open, vol. 9, no. 5 , pp. 1-8 , doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026234.

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Objective: To investigate mothers’ infant feedingexperiences (breastfeeding/formula milk feeding) with theaim of understanding how women experience cessation ofexclusive breastfeeding.Design: Multimethod, qualitative study; questionnaire,focus groups and interviews.Setting:Northern and Southern Tasmania, Australia.Participants: 127 mothers of childbearing age froma broad sociodemographic context completed aquestionnaire and participated in 22 focus groups or 19interviews across Tasmania, 2011–2013.Results: Mothers view breastfeeding as ‘natural’ and‘best’ and formula milk as ‘wrong’ and ‘unnatural’.In an effort to avoid formula and prolong exclusivebreastfeeding, mothers will endure multiple issues (eg,pain, low milk supply, mastitis, public shaming) andmake use of various forms of social and physical capital;resources such as father/partner support, expressingbreast milk, bottles and dummies. The cessation ofexclusive breastfeeding was frequently experiencedas unexpected and ‘devastating’, leaving mothers with‘breastfeeding grief’ (a prolonged sense of loss andfailure).Conclusions and implications: For many mothers, thecessation of exclusive breastfeeding results in lingeringfeelings of grief and failure making it harmful to women’semotional well-being. Reframing breastfeeding as afamily practice where fathers/partners are incorporatedas breastfeeding partners has the potential to help womennegotiate and prolong breastfeeding. Proactive counsellingand debriefing are needed to assist women who aremanaging feelings of ‘breastfeeding grief’.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Ayton, JE and Tesch, L and Hansen, E
Keywords: breastfeeding, qualitative, mothers
Journal or Publication Title: BMJ Open
Publisher: B M J Group
ISSN: 2044-6055
DOI / ID Number: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026234
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2019 The Author(s)Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

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