to develop an understanding of primiparous women's experiences and challenges of breast feeding in the early postpartum period at two BFI accredited hospitals in the East Midlands in the UK that has lower rates of sustained breast feeding.
a hermeneutic or interpretive phenomenology study was conducted across two hospitals in the East Midlands, UK.
22 primigravid women completed a daily written diary maintained for six weeks post birth. In addition, interviews were conducted with 13 women, nine who had completed a diary and four who did not return a diary but wanted to be interviewed, providing 26 different women's perspectives on their breast feeding experiences either from a diary or interview.
three main themes emerged from the interviews and written diaries: (1) mothers experience a 'roller coaster' of emotions in relation to trying to establish breast feeding, (2) mothers perceive health care professionals as the 'experts' on breast feeding and (3) mothers had difficulties in breast feeding their infants in public, including in front of family and family and when away from their homes.
women were ill prepared for the realities of breast feeding despite their antenatal intention to breast feed. Mothers had a preconceived idea that breast feeding would be 'natural' and without difficulty. When problems occurred, they perceived this to be a breast feeding problem and so choose artificial milk. Mothers require ongoing support to breast feed, especially in the early postpartum period, but more realistic messages about breast feeding need to be included.
there is a clear need for antenatal education to focus on preparing women for the realities of breast feeding, including newborn behaviour, which may affect women's perceptions of breast feeding. Local health care professionals need to draw upon national breast feeding strategies but develop a localised approach in order to address the regional variance.