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Views and experience of breastfeeding in public: A qualitative systematic review

Aimee Grant Orcid Logo, Bethan Pell, Lauren Copeland Orcid Logo, Amy Brown Orcid Logo, Becky Ellis, Delyth Morris, Denitza Williams, Rhiannon Phillips

Maternal and Child Nutrition

Swansea University Authors: Aimee Grant Orcid Logo, Amy Brown Orcid Logo, Becky Ellis

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DOI (Published version): 10.1111/mcn.13407

Abstract

Breastfeeding rates in many Global North countries are low. Qualitative researchhighlights that breastfeeding in public is a particular challenge, despite mothers oftenhaving the legal right to do so. To identify barriers and facilitators, we systematicallysearched the qualitative research from Orga...

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Published in: Maternal and Child Nutrition
ISSN: 1740-8695 1740-8709
Published: Wiley 2022
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URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa60442
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Abstract: Breastfeeding rates in many Global North countries are low. Qualitative researchhighlights that breastfeeding in public is a particular challenge, despite mothers oftenhaving the legal right to do so. To identify barriers and facilitators, we systematicallysearched the qualitative research from Organisation for Economic Co‐operation andDevelopment countries relating to breastfeeding in public spaces from 2007 to 2021.Data were analysed using the Thematic Synthesis technique. The review was registeredwith PROSPERO (registration number: CRD42017081504). Database searching identified3570 unique records. In total, 74 papers, theses, or book chapters, relating to 71 studies,were included, accounting for over 17,000 mothers. Overall, data quality was high. Ouranalysis identified that five core factors influenced mothers’ thought processes and theirbreastfeeding in public behaviour: legal system; structural (in)equality; knowledge; beliefs andthe social environment. Macro‐level factors relating to legislation and inequality urgentlyrequire redress if breastfeeding rates are to be increased. Widespread culture change isalso required to enhance knowledge, change hostile beliefs and thus the socialenvironment in which mother/infant dyads exist. In particular, the sexualisation ofbreasts, disgust narratives and lack of exposure among observers to baby‐led infantfeeding patterns resulted in beliefs which created a stigmatising environment. In thiscontext, many mothers felt unable to breastfeed in public; those who breastfed outsidethe home were usually highly self‐aware, attempting to reduce their exposure to conflict.Evidence‐based theoretically informed interventions to remove barriers to breastfeedingin public are urgently required.
Keywords: breastfeeding; breastfeeding in public; infant feeding; sexualisation of breasts; shaming; stigma
College: College of Human and Health Sciences
Funders: Wellcome Trust