Women's experiences of infant feeding support in the first 6 weeks post-birth

Athena Sheehan, Virginia Schmied, Lesley Barclay

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Research suggests women find the first 2 to 6 weeks to be the most difficult time for breastfeeding. It has been identified that women need and seek support with breastfeeding during this time. Support is a difficult concept to define. When discussed by professionals, support for breastfeeding is generally viewed in terms of providing information and educational interventions. There is little understanding of the different elements of breastfeeding support strategies and the mechanisms by which support operates. Further, there is a paucity of qualitative research specifically reporting women's experiences and expectations of professional support. This paper describes women's expectations and experiences of 'infant feeding support' provided by health professionals in the first 6 weeks post-birth. The findings are drawn from a grounded theory study exploring women's infant feeding decisions in the first 6 weeks post-birth. Participants were recruited from a variety of socio-demographic areas of Sydney and the NSW Central Coast, Australia in 2003-2004. The women in this study discussed aspects of what they considered helpful and/or unhelpful in terms of professional support. In addition, they also provided insight into aspects of interactions that were deemed important to them as new mothers learning to feed their babies. The results are presented in three sections: Expecting support, experiencing support and evaluating support. The findings help to better understand components of professional practices and behaviours that can be considered supportive. The support behaviours are far more complex than simply increasing education and knowledge of infant feeding. They demonstrate the need for sensitive individualized care and show that this type of support can increase women's confidence to breastfeed. � 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation � 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)138-150
    Number of pages13
    JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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