Responding to the call to care : women's experience of breastfeeding in New Zealand : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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Massey University
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New Zealand breastfeeding experts have long contended that New Zealand does not have a breastfeeding culture, as demonstrated by anecdotal evidence suggesting that women find breastfeeding difficult to initiate and sustain. A review of the literature indicates that, in New Zealand, breastfeeding knowledge falls within the domain of health care professionals, which marginalises women's own experiential knowledge about breastfeeding. Therefore, this study explores the experience of breastfeeding for women in New Zealand. A reflective lifeworld research methodology underpins this study, allowing the participants' narratives to be explored without the use of pre-existing theoretical frameworks that may close down on aspects of the interpretive analysis. Nineteen women were interviewed for this study, all of whom were New Zealanders who were either breastfeeding at the time of the interviews, or had breastfed within the last two years. Many of the participants had breastfed more than one child. What emerges as the central thesis of this study is that breastfeeding is a priori to unique embodied experiences. A number of sub-themes, which further explicate this central thesis, include: the silencing of the reality of breastfeeding within the public domain, the pervasive influence of society, or 'the they', through the accepted frameworks by which breastfeeding women interpret their individual breastfeeding experiences, and breastfeeding as a means of facilitating close relationships between women and their infants. The findings of this study will assist health care professionals working alongside breastfeeding women, as it offers fresh understandings of what it is to be a breastfeeding woman. It is important that health care professionals lay aside their previously-held perceptions about breastfeeding, and pay careful attention to individual women's experiences prior to planning interventions. If health care professionals value women's embodied breastfeeding narratives, women will be supported to articulate their breastfeeding experiences, thereby increasing women's confidence in their embodied breastfeeding knowledge and capabilities
Breastfeeding, New Zealand, Nursing