Elite Distance Runners and Breastfeeding: A Qualitative Study

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Elite female distance runners lack guidelines regarding breastfeeding while training at a high intensity.


The purpose of this research was to understand how elite female distance runners manage breastfeeding.


Semistructured interviews were conducted with 14 women who had had at least one pregnancy within the past 5 years and had achieved a minimum of the USA Track and Field 2012 Olympic Trials “B” entry standard for running for the marathon or equivalent performance for 1,500 m or longer.


Using thematic analysis, we identified the following themes: breastfeeding as a barrier to training and competition, limited access to relevant breastfeeding information, and concerns for the baby's health. Our findings show that despite the considerable barriers with which these women contend, they breastfed at higher rates and for longer duration than members of the general public.


Based on our findings, we argue that elite female distance runners' experiences of breastfeeding would be enhanced if more research were conducted on breastfeeding practices while training and competing at an elite level.

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