An exploration of Young Mothers’ Experiences of Breastfeeding whilst living with their family of origin

  • Lauren Haigh

Student thesis: Master's Thesis

Abstract

There is a wealth of research exploring the breastfeeding experiences of women. However, the majority of this research focuses on older women or women of all ages, and few focus on breastfeeding experiences of young mothers aged 21 and under. Like this, there are very few studies exploring how living with family affects and influences a mother's choice to breastfeed, and even less so exploring this amongst young mothers specifically. Using online qualitative interviews and an open-ended qualitative questionnaire, this research aimed to explore young mothers’ experiences of breastfeeding whilst living with family (other than just partner and/or child/ren) and the impact others around them had on these experiences. Using thematic analysis, five overarching themes were identified: (1) breastfeeding as deviant vs normalised; (2) respecting others; (3) a process of overcoming difficulties; (4) impact of support and absence of support; and (5) baby comes first. The findings of this study showed that others around these women (either people close to them or strangers), found breastfeeding to either be a normal or deviant behaviour and there was a link between how others perceived breastfeeding and the level and kind of support these mothers received. If others perceived breastfeeding as deviant, young mothers would usually experience a lack of support, whereas if others perceived breastfeeding as normal, young mothers would usually experience high levels of support. Also found was the respect that these young mothers had for the comfort, views, space and authority of those around them, even if these people had different opinions of breastfeeding to these young mothers. This study also found that these women experienced a large number of difficulties over their time breastfeeding, as well as exploring how these mothers overcome these difficulties by a process of learning, adapting and adjusting. Lastly, this study found that despite their young age and living in someone else’s home, that some of these mothers took control of their autonomy as mothers and made decisions regarding their babies, regardless of the opinions and views of others around them. These findings indicate that these young mothers’ experiences of those around them had a substantial impact on their overall breastfeeding experience, either positively or negatively. Overall, the present study illustrates the need for realistic prenatal support and care when mothers are making their infant feeding decisions, as well as postnatally in order for these women to be able to overcome any difficulties they have with the assistance and encouragement of others and become confident in their ability as breastfeeding mothers.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJoyce Marshall (Co-Supervisor) & Dawn Leeming (Co-Supervisor)

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