Resistance to breastfeeding: A Foucauldian analysis of breastfeeding support from health professionals.Women Birth. 2017 Dec; 30(6):e281-e291.WB
Despite widespread consensus regarding the health benefits of breastfeeding, the prevalence of six months exclusive breastfeeding is very low in developed countries including New Zealand.
This paper aims to evaluate the role that health professionals play in promoting exclusive breastfeeding in New Zealand.
Qualitative research involving face to face postpartum interviews conducted four to six weeks after the birth with 30 new mothers who lived in New Zealand and had identified in a short antenatal questionnaire that they intended to practice exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Themes related to exclusive breastfeeding support from health professionals were extracted from the interview transcripts and interpreted using Foucault's ideas about governmentality and bio-power.
Four themes related to the quality of health care support were identified in the interview transcripts. 'Breastfeeding self-efficacy support from the community midwives', 'mothers need to know more about breastfeeding during pregnancy', 'experiencing difficulties breastfeeding' as well as 'pressure and resistance to breastfeeding'.
Most mothers in this research spoke about feeling pressured to breastfeed within the New Zealand health system. However, the participating mothers acknowledged the effective support that they had received from community midwives who respected their autonomy, strengthened their self-esteem and encouraged them to breastfeed.
Negative historical experiences related to the medicalization of infant feeding in Western countries suggests that health professionals need to provide effective skill support for breastfeeding mothers so that mothers do not consider it a form of "quiet coercion" or as an exercise of "power".