Maternal perceptions of breastfeeding difficulty after caesarean section with regional anaesthesia: A qualitative study

Jacqueline Chaplin, Jennifer Kelly, Sue Kildea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Caesarean delivery rates have increased in Australia over the last decade creating new challenges for breastfeeding mothers and caregivers. The advantages of breastfeeding are well recognised, however breastfeeding problems are common. Review of the literature revealed limited qualitative research relating to the experience of women having difficulties breastfeeding after caesarean section under regional anaesthesia. This study aimed to fill that gap in the literature.

Methods: Participants were women referred to the hospital Breastfeeding Support Centre with difficulty initiating and establishing breastfeeding. The methodology employed was interpretive phenomenology and purposeful sampling. Data was analysed using van Manen's hermeneutical circular process.

Results: Themes identified included Unnatural birth, Natural instincts compromised, Helping mothers to mother and Sabotage and defeat. These themes elicited ten subthemes which were interpreted and reflected upon to reveal key findings. These findings included the emotional and physical effects of the delivery and anaesthetic, the lack of true skin to skin contact, separation of mother and baby, inconsistent information, inadequate support, unnecessary formula supplementation and feelings of failure.

Conclusion: Key recommendations included increasing skin to skin contact after caesarean section to support the natural instincts of mother and baby, increasing education on possible effects of surgical delivery on breastfeeding and increasing postnatal breastfeeding support for this group of women. Broader issues of inadequate staffing and a changing postnatal dynamic reflecting increased post-surgical care need further exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-152
Number of pages9
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


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