Young mothers' decisions to initiate and continue breastfeeding in the UK: tensions inherent in the paradox between being but not being able to be seen to be a good mother

Hunter, Louise and Magill-Cuerden, Julia (2014) Young mothers' decisions to initiate and continue breastfeeding in the UK: tensions inherent in the paradox between being but not being able to be seen to be a good mother. Evidence-Based Midwifery, 12 (2). pp. 46-51. ISSN 1479-4489

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Abstract

Background. In the UK and other developed nations, adolescent mothers are among those least likely to breastfeed, yet they and their children would potentially benefit more from breastfeeding than advantaged groups.
Aim. To explore the ways in which a small group of UK adolescent mothers conceptualise their decisions to breastfeed and experience breastfeeding in their communities. Method. A total of six focus groups or interviews with 15 mothers aged 16 to 20. Participants were recruited at young parent groups in Oxfordshire, England. Ethical approval was obtained from the relevant NHS and university authorities.
Findings. Young UK women are acutely aware of the stigma attached to young motherhood in the UK and consider that breastfeeding can help overcome this through its associations with good mothering. Although some did not initially want to breastfeed, they developed a desire to do so as their pregnancy progressed. In common with older breastfeeding mothers, young mothers in the UK rarely feel able to breastfeed in public or in front of male family members. This creates conflict and distress for young mothers, who, as new adults, need to be judged positively, and accepted by and integrated into their families and communities. Young mothers identified a paucity of support for breastfeeding within their social networks, and found maintaining exclusive breastfeeding difficult.
Implications. The paradox between being, but not being able to be seen to be, a good mother creates problems and exacerbates existing tensions between young women and their families and communities. An understanding of the conceptual framework used by young mothers in the UK who decide to breastfeed, and of the difficulties they face, may enable midwives to provide appropriate, targeted advice and support for this group.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Young mothers, breastfeeding decisions, breastfeeding experiences, cultural influences, evidence-based midwifery
Subjects: Medicine and health > Midwifery
Depositing User: Rod Pow
Date Deposited: 08 May 2015 15:04
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2017 10:00
URI: http://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1141

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