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


Ayton, JE and Tesch, L and Hansen, E, Women's experiences of ceasing to breastfeed: Australian qualitative study, BMJ Open, 9, (5) Article e026234. ISSN 2044-6055 (2019) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

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

DOI: doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026234


Objective: To investigate mothers’ infant feeding experiences (breastfeeding/formula milk feeding) with the aim of understanding how women experience cessation of exclusive breastfeeding.

Design: Multimethod, qualitative study; questionnaire, focus groups and interviews.

Setting:Northern and Southern Tasmania, Australia.

Participants: 127 mothers of childbearing age from a broad sociodemographic context completed a questionnaire and participated in 22 focus groups or 19 interviews 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 exclusive breastfeeding, mothers will endure multiple issues (eg, pain, low milk supply, mastitis, public shaming) and make use of various forms of social and physical capital; resources such as father/partner support, expressing breast milk, bottles and dummies. The cessation of exclusive breastfeeding was frequently experienced as unexpected and ‘devastating’, leaving mothers with ‘breastfeeding grief’ (a prolonged sense of loss and failure).

Conclusions and implications: For many mothers, the cessation of exclusive breastfeeding results in lingering feelings of grief and failure making it harmful to women’s emotional well-being. Reframing breastfeeding as a family practice where fathers/partners are incorporated as breastfeeding partners has the potential to help women negotiate and prolong breastfeeding. Proactive counselling and debriefing are needed to assist women who are managing feelings of ‘breastfeeding grief’.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:breastfeeding, qualitative, mothers
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Sociology of health
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health)
Objective Field:Women's and maternal health
UTAS Author:Ayton, JE (Dr Jennifer Ayton)
UTAS Author:Tesch, L (Ms Leigh Tesch)
UTAS Author:Hansen, E (Dr Emily Hansen)
ID Code:135409
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:22
Deposited By:Medicine
Deposited On:2019-10-17
Last Modified:2022-08-29
Downloads:18 View Download Statistics

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