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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Two sides of breastfeeding support: experiences of women and midwives

Caroline A Bäckström*, Elisabeth I Hertfelt Wahn and Anette C Ekström*

Author Affiliations

School of Life Sciences, Skövde University, Skövde, Sweden

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International Breastfeeding Journal 2010, 5:20  doi:10.1186/1746-4358-5-20

Published: 29 November 2010

Abstract

Background

Midwives' support of breastfeeding in maternity wards has been proven to provide an impact on women's breastfeeding experiences. In previous studies women describe professional support unfavourably, with an emphasis on time pressures, lack of availability or guidance, promotion of unhelpful practices, and conflicting advice. Thus, the present study aims to investigate women's experiences and reflections of receiving breastfeeding support and midwives' experiences and reflections of giving breastfeeding support.

Methods

This study was carried out in a county in southwestern Sweden during 2003-2004. A qualitative method, content analysis, was chosen for the study. The data came from interviews with women as well as interviews with midwives who were experienced in breastfeeding support.

Results

The women's and midwives' experiences and reflections of receiving and giving breastfeeding support were conceptualized as one main theme: "Individualized breastfeeding support increases confidence and satisfaction." This theme contained three categories: "The unique woman," "The sensitive confirming process," and "Consistency of ongoing support." In order to feel confident in their new motherhood role, the women wanted more confirmation as unique individuals and as breastfeeding women; they wanted to be listened to; and they wanted more time, understanding, and follow-up from health professionals. In contrast, the midwives described themselves as encouraging and confirming of the women's needs.

Conclusions

If health care professionals responded to the woman's unique needs, the woman felt that the breastfeeding support was good and was based on her as an individual, otherwise a feeling of uncertainty emerged. The midwives, however, expressed that they gave the women individual support, but they also expressed that the support came from different points of view, because the midwives interpreted women's signals differently.