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Views and experience of breastfeeding in public: A qualitative systematic review
Maternal & Child Nutrition, Volume: 18, Issue: 4
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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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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.
breastfeeding; breastfeeding in public; infant feeding; sexualisation of breasts; shaming; stigma
Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences
Wellcome Trust 105613/Z/14/Z