Personal Breastfeeding Experience and Professional Practice

How does Personal Experience of Breastfeeding Affect the Professional Practice of Health Care Professionals?

The second study from the PSG group Breastfeeding and Health Care Experiences, investigated the effect of their own breastfeeding experiences on the support that healthcare professionals offered breastfeeding mothers. It.was devised and run with support from Dr Yan-Shing Chang of Kings College, London and after workshops facilitated by Dr Petra Boynton.

This group had a unique mix of of breastfeeding mothers from a range of backgrounds including several breastfeeding mothers currently working as Health Care Professionals (HCPs); approximately 50% of the group were HCPs or peer supporters.

8 HCPs interviewed each other in pairs, and a team examined the interviews using thematic analysis.

Preliminary Results

Before breastfeeding experience:

  • Little formal training on breastfeeding
  • Lack of knowledge of breastfeeding norms
  • Familiar with myths on when to wean e.g. when the child gets teeth, or can talk, or is just “too old”
  • Feelings of discomfort around breastfeeding mothers

After breastfeeding experience:

  • Positive experiences of breastfeeding to sleep conflicted with baby sleep advice
  • Keeping mothering practices (cosleeping, natural term breastfeeding) secret from colleagues for fear of disapproval:
  • HCPs’ work environment not breastfeeding friendly for mothers who return to work while breastfeeding
  • Informal training: Knowledge gained from own experience, support groups, online communities and observing other mothers
  • Participants became ‘breastfeeding champions’
    • Participants used as informal breastfeeding experts by colleagues
    • Used knowledge of normal breastfeeding and sleep behaviour to support mothers
    • Able to recognise and confidently challenge breastfeeding unfriendly practice


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