Struggling to breathe: exploring nurses' experience of infant feeding support




Humphries, Joan Margaret

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The successful transition to motherhood can be associated with the experience of infant feeding, and women’s views of whether that experience has been positive or negative can shape the mothering experience. However, nurses’ engagement with best practice breastfeeding promotion may elicit negative responses from women who are either unsuccessful in their attempts to breastfeed, or do not breastfeed for other reasons. Are nurses adequately prepared or supported to deal with the variety of infant feeding challenges that inevitably arise in perinatal practice settings? For example, Canadian perinatal nurses are expected to conform to WHO-conceived Baby Friendly expectations to disseminate evidence that pertains to the health risks of introducing formula to infants. However, in some circumstances, infant formula is recommended by practitioners in order to provide crucial hydration and/or nourishment, which destabilizes the discourse of risk, and creates confusion for mothers. Questions also arise about the appropriateness of nurses applying WHO guidelines to every woman without first considering intersectional realities which may not align with BF recommendations to breastfeed for six months and beyond. These questions, and others, informed the research question: “What is nurses’ experience of infant feeding support?” Eleven perinatal nurses from across Canada were interviewed. The conversations were interpreted using Gadamerian hermeneutic methodology. Participants described a variety of practices and dilemmas that they associate with infant feeding “support,” highlighting that complex and contradictory forces are at play for nurses involved in infant feeding support as well as the unintended and negative consequences of following BF best practice guidelines.  



Hermeneutics, Infant feeding support, Foucault, Feminism, Baby Friendly, Discourse