Falling by the wayside: a phenomenological exploration of perceived breast-milk inadequacy in lactating women

Dykes, Fiona Clare orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2728-7967 and Williams, Catherine (1999) Falling by the wayside: a phenomenological exploration of perceived breast-milk inadequacy in lactating women. Midwifery, 15 (4). pp. 232-246. ISSN 0266-6138

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1054/midw.1999.0185


Objective: to provide insight into the lived experience of breast feeding, in primiparous
women.Themain focuswas uponwomen's perceptions related to the adequacy of their
breastmilk, for the purpose of exclusively nourishing their babies.
Design: a longitudinal, phenomenological study involving in-depth, interactive interviews,
conducted at 6,12 and18 weeks following the birth of thewomen's babies.
Participants and setting: a convenience sample of ten primiparouswomenwere recruited
prior to discharge fromamaternity unit, in the north of England, in1998.
Findings: two groupsofparticipants emerged, threewhobecame increasinglyconf|dent and
empowered by breast feeding and the remaining sevenwhose conf|dence progressively
diminished, with six of themexpressing concern that their breastmilk was inadequate.
Fourmajor themes related to the participants'perceptions emerged fromthe analysis: the
quest to quantify and visualise breastmilk; anxiety regarding the adequacy of their diet;
breast feeding as a challenging journey, withmost feeling that they had `fallen by the
wayside' (this related partly to inadequate and con£icting advice given by health
professionals); and f|nally, unmet needs for support, nurturing and replenishment in return
for `giving out'.
Conclusion: perceived breast-milk inadequacy is underpinned by a complex and synergistic
interaction between socio-cultural in£uences, feedingmanagement, the baby's behaviour,
lactation physiology and thewoman's psychological state.
Implications: education ofmidwives andhealthvisitors is requiredin relation to the needs of
breast-feedingmotherswithin aWestern industrialised society. Strong social policy is vital
in theUK, to initiate socio-cultural changes, whichwould enablewomenwho commence
breast feeding to perceive it as an empowering and fulf|lling experience and not one of
`falling by the wayside'.

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