Emotions such as guilt and blame are frequently reported by non-breastfeeding mothers, and fear and humiliation are experienced by breastfeeding mothers when feeding in a public context, scientists say.
Breastfeeding mothers may feel shame if they breastfeed in public due to exposure, while those who do not breastfeed may experience shame through ‘failing’ to give their infant the ‘best start’, researchers found.
The findings of the study highlight how breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding women may experience judgment and condemnation in interactions with health professionals as well as within community contexts, leading to feelings of failure, inadequacy and isolation, researchers said.
Scientists studied 63 women with varied infant feeding experiences.
They found that breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers experience shame through inadequate support, judgment, and condemnation, leading to feelings of failure, inadequacy, and isolation.
“This study highlights the difficulties and tensions that breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding women can face in hospital and community settings,” said Dr Gill Thomson, lead author of the study from the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK.
“It emphasises the need for person centered, individualised support to be available to women, irrespective of how they feed their infant, as well as focused efforts to address cultural and structural constraints associated with infant feeding,” Thomson said.