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Realities, difficulties, and outcomes for mothers choosing to breastfeed: Primigravid mothers experiences in the early postpartum period (6–8 weeks)

Hinsliff-Smith, Kathryn; Spencer, Rachael; Walsh, Denis


Kathryn Hinsliff-Smith

Rachael Spencer

Denis Walsh


Objective: to develop an understanding of primiparous women's experiences and challenges of breast feeding in the early postpartum period at two BFI accredited hospitals in the East Midlands in the UK that has lower rates of sustained breast feeding.
Design and setting: a hermeneutic or interpretive phenomenology study was conducted across two hospitals in the East Midlands, UK.
Data collection: 22 primigravid women completed a daily written diary maintained for six weeks post birth. In addition, interviews were conducted with 13 women, nine who had completed a diary and four who did not return a diary but wanted to be interviewed, providing 26 different women's perspectives on their breast feeding experiences either from a diary or interview.
Findings: three main themes emerged from the interviews and written diaries: (1) mothers experience a ‘roller coaster’ of emotions in relation to trying to establish breast feeding, (2) mothers perceive health care professionals as the ‘experts’ on breast feeding and (3) mothers had difficulties in breast feeding their infants in public, including in front of family and family and when away from their homes.
Conclusions: women were ill prepared for the realities of breast feeding despite their antenatal intention to breast feed. Mothers had a preconceived idea that breast feeding would be ‘natural’ and without difficulty. When problems occurred, they perceived this to be a breast feeding problem and so choose artificial milk. Mothers require ongoing support to breast feed, especially in the early postpartum period, but more realistic messages about breast feeding need to be included.
Implications for practice: there is a clear need for antenatal education to focus on preparing women for the realities of breast feeding, including newborn behaviour, which may affect women's perceptions of breast feeding. Local health care professionals need to draw upon national breast feeding strategies but develop a localised approach in order to address the regional variance.


Hinsliff-Smith, K., Spencer, R., & Walsh, D. (2014). Realities, difficulties, and outcomes for mothers choosing to breastfeed: Primigravid mothers experiences in the early postpartum period (6–8 weeks). Midwifery, 30(1), e14-e19.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 1, 2013
Online Publication Date Oct 9, 2013
Publication Date Jan 31, 2014
Deposit Date Nov 20, 2018
Journal Midwifery
Print ISSN 0266-6138
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 30
Issue 1
Pages e14-e19
Keywords Obstetrics and Gynaecology; Maternity and Midwifery
Public URL
Publisher URL