Lynne Smith, Assistant Professor in Nursing, University of Northumbria
National Breastfeeding Week took place from 18th to 24th September 2023. Continuing and building on last year’s theme, ‘Everyone has a part to play in helping mums to breastfeed’. The week included daily themes and activities showing how families, community, health and education services all have a part to play in supporting mothers.
The role of the family nurse is integral in supporting families to continue breastfeeding for as long as they wish to do so. This includes ensuring community services are set up to be supportive of breastfeeding in public.
Breastfeeding in public can seem scary to many mums, however there is a legal responsibility to facilitate breastfeeding anytime and anywhere. A 2020 integrative review of research into mothers’ experiences of breastfeeding in public analysed evidence from twelve countries to identify common themes (Hauck YL, Bradfield Z, Kuliukas L.). Twenty-seven publications were included and identified maternal experiences as either “challenging” or “enhancing”. Challenging categorised four subthemes: ‘drawing attention’, ‘sexualisation of breasts’, ‘awareness of others’ discomfort’, and ‘efforts not to be seen’. Supportive subthemes were: “supportive audience’ and ‘confidence’. Conclusions confirmed international commonality of breastfeeding in public experiences linked to community and societal behaviours. Providing insight into how the family nurse can support mothers by offering a welcoming supportive environment where breastfeeding is accepted as normal. Further information can be found here: Breastfeeding in Public. #NationalBreastfeedingWeek.
Hauck, Y, L., Bradfield, Z. and Kuliukas, L. (2021) Women’s experiences with breastfeeding in public: An integrative review. Women Birth. 34(3):e217-e227. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2020.04.008. Epub 2020 May 10. PMID: 32402811.