Personal Infant Feeding Experiences of Postpartum Nurses Affect How They Provide Breastfeeding Support

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Abstract

Objective:

To describe the experiences of postpartum nurses when feeding their own infants and explore how these experiences influence the breastfeeding support they provide to new mothers.

Design:

Qualitative research with interviews using dialogic data generation and analysis.

Setting:

Large academic women and children's hospital in the Southern United States.

Participants:

Nine postpartum nurses who gave birth and breastfed or mixed-fed infants at any time in the past.

Methods:

Individual, semistructured, face-to-face interviews.

Results:

Participants described breastfeeding experiences similar to those of other women: some were positive, some negative. Most participants reported that they received less breastfeeding support than they needed during the maternity hospitalization. They attributed this to the fact that they were nurses. The infant feeding experiences of participants led them to promote breastfeeding in a more personal way and establish deeper connections with the mothers in their care. The practice of all participants changed because of their desire to prevent other mothers from experiencing the physical or psychological pain they experienced with breastfeeding.

Conclusion:

Personal infant feeding experiences shaped the breastfeeding practice of participants in unique and unpredictable ways. Nurses may benefit from increased breastfeeding education and support during their own maternity hospitalizations. Additionally, the inclusion of reflective narrative processes in breastfeeding education could encourage nurses to explore their personal, empirical, and clinical knowledge and construct an approach to breastfeeding practice that integrates these sources of information.

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