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Autistic women’s views and experiences of infant feeding: A systematic review of qualitative evidence
Autism, Start page: 136236132210893
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Low breastfeeding rates are driven by multiple bio-psycho-social factors. Experience of breastfeeding is known to differ by maternal demographic factors (age, education and ethnicity) but there is less recognition of factors such as neurodivergence. This review, prospectively registered with PROSPER...
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Low breastfeeding rates are driven by multiple bio-psycho-social factors. Experience of breastfeeding is known to differ by maternal demographic factors (age, education and ethnicity) but there is less recognition of factors such as neurodivergence. This review, prospectively registered with PROSPERO (registration number: CRD42021271465), systematically identified qualitative research, commentaries and personal accounts related to Autistic mothers and infant feeding. Database searching identified 1225 records, with thematic synthesis undertaken on 22 (eight peer-reviewed studies and 14 grey literature) pieces. Our analysis identified that maternity and infant feeding services were built on a lack of understanding of Autistic needs, and were often inaccessible at a time when Autistic mothers already felt a loss of control and lack of social support. Specifically relating to breastfeeding, knowledge and determination were often high, and a minority of mothers reported positive breastfeeding experiences. However, sensory challenges, pain and interoceptive differences (exacerbated by a lack of support) made breastfeeding impossible for some. Infant formula was viewed as second-best to breastmilk, but a minority of mothers found the ritual of preparing bottles of formula positive. There is an urgent need for maternity and infant feeding services to accommodate the needs of Autistic mothers, including service design and staff training.
autism, breastfeeding, infant feeding, maternity
College of Human and Health Sciences
This systematic review was funded in part by the Research Wales Innovation Fund, who funded Jones’ time. Grant’s post is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, which also supported Brown’s time on this project. Open access publishing was partially funded through an agreement between Sage and Swansea University.