Breastfeeding beyond infancy animated video video transcript

The Health and Social Care Research Centre 

Being a force for positive impact

Exploring the experiences of mothers breastfeeding beyond infancy.

There is a lot of research which highlights multiple long and short term health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child. However, the UK has one of the lowest uptake in breastfeeding in the world!

This is not through want of trying! We know many mothers try extremely hard to breastfeed and can feel overwhelmingly guilty if they are not successful.

Research has also shown that there are multiple barriers for a woman to be able to succeed. This is why UNICEF has called for the UK to take action in order to reduce these barriers so that women who want to breastfeed can successfully do so.

Did you know that to gain the full benefits of breastfeeding it is recommended a mother breastfeeds a child for 2 years and more?

It is estimated that only 1% of UK women breastfeed to this recommended age. Therefore it is clearly important to understand how we can support women to breastfeed for longer.

The University of Derby researchers have conducted a study which explored the experiences of women who have breastfed beyond infancy in Derbyshire, in the hope that this would improve our understanding of their needs.

What we found out

A woman’s breastfeeding is a continued progression from infancy through to toddlerhood.

Breastfeeding can be difficult to establish in the early days. However as these women overcame adversities breastfeeding became intertwined in family routines.

The women wanted to continue to support their child’s nutritional, emotional and developmental needs as they grew.

It was felt that stopping breastfeeding would cause unnecessary distress and difficulties for both mother and child.

There was a strong importance for these mothers to allow their child to wean at the age they were naturally ready.

Once these mothers gained confidence, feeding out and about in public places was positive in the early days and experiencing words of encouragement from passers by was quite common.

However, as their child grew older, the mothers felt more and more uncomfortable feeding in public.

Their social circles started getting smaller.

This was because they felt increasingly unable to disclose to their wider family and friends that they continued to breastfeed for fear of being judged.

Healthcare professionals had supported these mothers to establish breastfeeding and were generally good at advising mothers in the early days.

However, as their child grew older, the mothers' experience of accessing healthcare changed.

These women felt that healthcare practitioners who work in child health clinics were more focused on introducing solid food when their child turned six months and would recommend their child drink cows' milk when their child turned one.

Asking a healthcare professional such as a doctor or dentist if the treatment they were prescribed would interfere with their breastfeeding led to a variety of negative responses.

The mothers were left feeling like they should lie about breastfeeding to healthcare professionals they come into contact with.

The healthcare practitioners they came into contact with were unable to support with specific issues these women had in relation to feeding an older child. For example:

Returning to work was a critical point for women who felt they would have to give up breastfeeding.

Many of these women turned to social media to seek advice from other breastfeeding mothers and to share information about any issues they may be experiencing.

These women were passionate about wanting to help women to breastfeed for longer. These women felt increasingly socially isolated and developed a distrust in healthcare professionals.

But what does this have to do with you?

If you know a breastfeeding mother, welcome her to openly share her experiences with you without judgement.

'Call out' anybody expressing a negative view of mothers breastfeeding beyond infancy as these comments only marginalise this community further.

Share the findings of this study with friends and family to raise awareness and understanding of 'natural-term weaning' and support the normalisation of breastfeeding beyond infancy.

Businesses can:

Employers should ensure all women returning from maternity leave have an opportunity to discuss their breastfeeding needs. These needs should be met to the best of the employers ability.

If you are a healthcare professional who comes into contact with a breastfeeding mother:

If you would like to find out more about this research or further studies conducted by The Health  and Social Care Research Centre University of Derby, Tweet @JJResearchNurse Jessica Jackson, Post Graduate Research Nurse, @Derby_HSRC University of Derby Health and Social Care Research Centre.

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