Against all odds: a retrospective case-controlled study of women who experienced extraordinary breastfeeding problems

Hegney, Desley and Fallon, Tony and O'Brien, Maxine L. (2008) Against all odds: a retrospective case-controlled study of women who experienced extraordinary breastfeeding problems. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 17 (9). pp. 1182-1192. ISSN 0962-1067


Aims. The study investigated factors empowering women to continue breastfeeding despite experiencing extraordinary difficulties. The study documented the experiences and characteristics of women who continued to breastfeed (continuing cohort) and those who weaned (non-continuing cohort) despite extraordinary difficulties.

Design. Retrospective case control.

Methods. The study was undertaken in south-east Queensland, Australia in 2004. Forty women (20 in each cohort) were recruited over six months. Both quantitative (breastfeeding knowledge questionnaire) and qualitative (semi-structured interviews) data were collected. This paper describes the qualitative data.

Results. Women from both cohorts expressed idealistic expectations about breastfeeding and experienced psychological distress due to their breastfeeding problems. Those who continued breastfeeding used coping strategies and exhibited personal qualities that assisted them to overcome the difficulties experienced. Women who continued to breastfeed were more likely to report relying on a health professional they could trust for support. This latter cohort were also more likely to report having peers with which they shared their experiences. Non-continuing women expressed feelings of guilt and inadequacy following weaning and were more likely to feel isolated.

Conclusions. This study has highlighted the methods women use to deal with breastfeeding problems. It has also revealed modificable factors that can improve breastfeeding duration.

Relevance to clinical practice. The findings indicate that clinicians should: Provide information which accurately reflects the breastfeeding experience; Ensure systems are in place so that effective postnatal support for breastfeeding difficulties is available; Consider screening to ascertain levels of psychological distress, sadness and disillusionment among breastfeeding women; Design educational interventions with elements of cognitive skills, problem-solving and self-efficacy training to equip women with the skills to overcome any experienced difficulties.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to paper, due to publisher's copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Nursing
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2010 04:53
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2014 01:42
Uncontrolled Keywords: breastfeeding; nurses; nursing; post-natal support; psychological distress
Fields of Research : 11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111707 Family Care
11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1110 Nursing > 111006 Midwifery
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 92 Health > 9205 Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) > 920507 Women's Health
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02300.x

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