Unseen, Unheard: a Qualitative Analysis of Women’s Experiences of Exclusively Expressing Breast Milk
BioMed Central (BMC)
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Original Item ID
Breast milk feeding has numerous benefits for women and infants. Positive maternal experiences with breast milk feeding impacts exclusivity, duration, and maternal mental health. Most research focuses on women feeding directly at the breast. Some women elect to feed exclusively expressed milk to their healthy, term infants rather than feed directly at the breast. Little is known about what constitutes a positive experience among this population. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore women’s experiences of exclusive expression (EE).
Interviews were conducted via Microsoft Teams to collect qualitative data from a purposive sample of 21 women practicing EE. Interviews were analyzed for themes.
Three themes: Unseen and Unheard, Doing it My Way, and Getting into the Groove, and 8 subthemes: Breast is Best, Missed Opportunities for Healthcare Provider Support, Fighting for it, What Works for Us, A Sense of Control, Preparation, Tricks of the Trade, and Making it Manageable were identified. Despite challenges, including a lack of support from healthcare providers and a lack of acknowledgement as breastfeeding mothers, exclusive expression offered participants a method to continue breast milk feeding in a way that they found to be satisfying.
This study provides insight into experiences of exclusive expression that clinicians can use to improve their support of breast milk feeding during perinatal encounters. Societal pressure to feed from the breast may have negative emotional consequences for women electing to exclusively express. There is a need for more information and support for breast milk expression from healthcare providers along with a reframing of how breast milk feeding is discussed and promoted.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Anders, Lisa A.; Robinson, Karen Marie; Ohlendorf, Jennifer M.; and Hanson, Lisa, "Unseen, Unheard: a Qualitative Analysis of Women’s Experiences of Exclusively Expressing Breast Milk" (2022). College of Nursing Faculty Research and Publications. 932.
ADA Accessible Version
Published version. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, Vol. 22 (2022): Article 58. DOI. © BioMed Central (BMC). Used with permission.