An Exploratory Thematic Analysis of the Breastfeeding Experience of Students at a Canadian University

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Abstract

Background:

The demographic of today’s university student includes breastfeeding mothers. Few studies have examined the breastfeeding experience that women face upon their return to school.

Research aim:

The purpose of this research was to explore the breastfeeding experience of students on a university campus.

Methods:

This qualitative study used semistructured interviews. Responses were audiotaped, transcribed, and coded according to common themes using MAXQDA software.

Results:

A total of eight women were interviewed for the study. All women reported “feelings of isolation” and expressed concern over “what will others think.” In addition, “nowhere to breastfeed” and “challenges of pumping” emerged as common barriers to breastfeeding. Regrettably, “forced decisions” emerged as a major theme, with four out of eight women reporting having to supplement with formula because they returned to school.

Conclusion:

Student breastfeeding mothers are faced with emotional and physical challenges upon their return to school. Lack of space to breastfeed or pump as well as lack of support on campus are the main reasons that students stop breastfeeding prematurely. A day care facility on campus that accepts young infants, a Baby-Friendly space, and enhanced education are required to support student mothers in their choice to breastfeed.

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