"You just need to leave the room when you breastfeed" Breastfeeding experiences among obese women in Sweden - A qualitative study

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Background: The benefits of breastfeeding for the infant as well for the mother are well-known. It is recognized that obese (Body Mass Index ≥30 kg/m2) women may have less antenatal intention to breastfeed, and shortened duration of breastfeeding compared with normal-weight women. This may result in adverse short- and long-term health for both mother and child, such as a shortened lactational amenorrhoea and decreased protection against breast cancer for the women, and an increased risk for infectious diseases and overweight/obesity among the children. Therefore, it is important to gain more knowledge and understanding of obese women's experiences of breastfeeding in order to attain good health care. Hence, the aim of this study was to identify and describe obese women's experiences of breastfeeding. Methods: This is an explorative study. Data was collected 2 - 18 months after childbirth through semi-structured face-to-face interviews with 11 obese women with breastfeeding experience. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was used. Results: Three themes emerged from the data analysis: Breastfeeding - a part of motherhood, the challenges of breastfeeding, and support for breastfeeding. The women described an antenatal hope for breastfeeding, the body's ability to produce milk fascinated them, and the breast milk was seen as the best way to feed the child and also as promoting the attachment between mother and child. Breastfeeding was described as a challenge even though it is natural. The challenges concerned technical difficulties such as the woman finding a good body position and helping the child to achieve an optimum grip of the nipple. Another challenge was the exposure of the body connected to public breastfeeding. Support of breastfeeding was described as the importance of being confirmed as an individual behind the obesity, rather than an individual with obesity, and to obtain enough professional breastfeeding support. Conclusions: Breastfeeding was experienced as a natural part of being a mother. There were practical challenges for obese women concerning how to manage breastfeeding and how to handle the public exposure of the body. There was a need for realistic information about breastfeeding concerning both the child and the woman.




Claesson, I. M., Larsson, L., Steen, L., & Alehagen, S. (2018). “You just need to leave the room when you breastfeed” Breastfeeding experiences among obese women in Sweden - A qualitative study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-017-1656-2

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