Exploring women's breastfeeding experiences using video diaries - Preliminary findings from PhD study.

Authors: Taylor, A.M., Ryan, K., Alexander, J and van Teijlingen, E.

Conference: Nutrition and Nurture in Infancy and Childhood:Bio-Cultural Perspectives

Dates: 10-12 June 2013


Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of the baby's life is now considered to provide maximum health benefits to both mother and baby and yet many women in the UK either do not breastfeed, or do so for only a short time (McAndrew et al. 2012).

Our research aim was to explore the day to day experiences of women who were breastfeeding their first baby in the early weeks following birth. To understand women's experiences of breastfeeding, their trials and tribulations the researcher needs to be present. However this was not possible or practical so asking five breastfeeding women to keep a video diary was a good substitute. Better than a paper-based diary or retrospective research interviews, this qualitative research explores for the first time women’s experiences of breastfeeding, as they are occurring. Women were requested to film anything and everything that related to their breastfeeding experiences, including a daily video diary, until they perceived their chosen infant feeding method to be established. Approaches to the analysis of video material used by other researchers (Jordan & Henderson 1995; Peräkylä & Ruusuvuori 2009; Heath et al. 2010) were used to develop a modified form of analysis. Ethical approval from the Regional Research Ethics Committee and University Research Governance Group was gained.

With daily video recordings produced by the mother over a period of time, themes were identified which were significant to the mother, capturing the multi-faceted nature of breastfeeding. Preliminary findings demonstrate one woman’s determination to succeed despite taking three months to achieve her ultimate goal to breastfeed without the use of supplements, even though she experienced inconsistent support, isolation, pain, self doubt and conflicting opinions. This story was illustrative of the rollercoaster of emotions that all the women experienced. The internal struggle between being a ‘good mother’ and needing to return to the ‘woman that was’ quickly became evident in the video diaries with anxieties of going back to work and being valued by society being important issues expressed in the early days after birth. Women spent a lot of time trying to ‘work it out’, trouble shooting and trying to make sense of their problems. Each woman had an essential 'kit' for breastfeeding which included an array of purchased items.

This study provides valuable insights into the socio-cultural context of breastfeeding and an enhanced understanding of how lay supporters, midwives and other health professionals can support women better in the vital early weeks following birth. It also enables service providers to develop policy with women’s lived breastfeeding experiences at its core.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Alison Taylor