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Women's perceptions, knowledge and breastfeeding decision-making

Linking theory to qualitative empirical data
PhD ceremony:dr. A.T. (Bettie ) Oosterhoff
When:June 11, 2015
Supervisors:prof. dr. ir. H.H. (Hinke) Haisma, prof. dr. I. Hutter
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Spatial Sciences
Women's perceptions, knowledge and breastfeeding decision-making

In the Netherlands, many women who start breastfeeding stop doing so in the first month after birth. Campaigns aiming to increase breastfeeding rates, focus on initiation as well as on continuation of breastfeeding, preferably until six months after birth. Little is known about  women’s underlying motives to stop or continue breastfeeding in the first month after birth. In this research, we conducted 26 in-depth interviews at two time points (before and after delivery) among 13 women who had their first child and who had the intention to start breastfeeding. The interviews addressed the perceptions of the women themselves. The researcher used theories from social and medical sciences to design her study and analyse the interviews. The results show that most women perceive breastfeeding as healthy and natural. It can be disappointing to women who want to breastfeed if they don’t succeed to continue breastfeeding as intended. Knowledge about breastfeeding plays an important role in women’s decision-making about infant feeding. The women obtain their breastfeeding knowledge from professionals as well as from others in their social environment. There is considerable variation in how women experience the exchange of knowledge in their environment. Women also appreciate to rely on maternal intuition in their infant feeding  choices. The researcher concludes that when the emphasis is on global guidelines and measuring breastfeeding rates, the context of breastfeeding, from the women’s perspectives, is ignored. Breastfeeding education and the support from care professionals, could be based on these perspectives more thoroughly.