Women's Experiences with Breastfeeding Support: Conflicting Practices and Discourses
Elliott, Gillian Audrey
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Drawing on insights from critical scholarship on medicalization and professionalization, this thesis explores women's experiences with breastfeeding support in the context of medical, institutional, health policy and professional forces in Ontario, Canada. Drawing on 10 qualitative, semi-structured interviews and 41 in-depth surveys completed by women who initiated breastfeeding; the results provide insight into how hospital practices, the lactation consultant profession and pharmaceuticals to support breastfeeding can shape breastfeeding support and in turn, impact womens breastfeeding experiences. The findings demonstrate that the women relied heavily on professional breastfeeding support both in hospital and in the community and experienced a disparity between their expectations and the reality of breastfeeding. This research finds that often the conflicting practices and discourses of medicalized and professionalized breastfeeding support recreates breastfeeding as a technically challenging process that requires medical and expert intervention, rather than a natural and easy process as it is often portrayed and promoted.