Exploring the Impact of a Difficult Breastfeeding Experience on Maternal Identity: A Narrative Analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Fowle, Rebekah 2015. Exploring the Impact of a Difficult Breastfeeding Experience on Maternal Identity: A Narrative Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.5181
AuthorsFowle, Rebekah
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Introduction: Due to the implied health benefits for mother and baby, breastfeeding has become a key public health issue. Literature reviewed highlighted the ‘medical’ and ‘natural’ mother discourse which surrounds motherhood and impacts on women’s decisions to breastfeed. Whilst the emotional and physical strains of a difficult experience have been explored, it is unclear how these experiences impact on women’s identities as mothers and in what ways women are able to narrate and share their embodied experiences.
Methods: Seven first time mothers who described themselves as having had a difficult breastfeeding experience were interviewed to gather data pertaining to how mothers construct narratives of breastfeeding and the impact of these narratives on their identity as mothers. An interest in both socio-political discourse and embodiment theory derived from the literature review led to the use of visual methods in eliciting narratives and the employment of a critical narrative analysis in exploring the data gathered.
Findings: The participants’ narratives drew from ‘medical’ and ‘natural’ mother discourses and were found to constrain subjective experience and leave participants with feelings of guilt, frustration and loss. A prevailing assumption that unruly, excessive bodies must be controlled by a rational ‘mind’ led to the body becoming a site for control and resistance for participants as they attempted to conform to norms of motherhood and breastfeeding.
Discussion: Results identified the ways in which women as mothers can see their subjective experiences diminished and their voices silenced due to a lack of available discourse and entrenched ideologies surrounding the ‘good’ mother. It is suggested that adopting a social justice agenda within therapeutic practice might prevent the internalisation of oppressive discourse which can lead to mothers’ psychological distress. Moreover, it is suggested that exploring the body in therapy might resist a mind/body dualism and lead to increasingly compassionate and accepting relationships with our bodies; in turn increasing awareness of subjective experience.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.5181
Publication dates
PrintJun 2015
Publication process dates
Deposited03 Aug 2016
Publisher's version
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