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A mixed methods study exploring UK mothers' experiences of bottle refusal by their breastfed baby

Maxwell, C (2019) A mixed methods study exploring UK mothers' experiences of bottle refusal by their breastfed baby. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Abstract

The UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, with the majority of UK mothers feeding their baby by a bottle at six months of age. However, for one group of mothers circumstances are very different. When they wish to introduce a bottle to their breastfed baby, their baby refuses to accept it. Little is known about bottle refusal by breastfed babies, however a review of UK online forums and social media reveal large numbers of mothers experiencing the scenario. Online discussions illustrate negative consequences of bottle refusal, including mothers delaying their return to work, spending time and finances on methods to overcome it, and experiencing stress, anxiety, and resentment of breastfeeding. In addition, some mothers describe not wanting to breastfeed with a subsequent baby due to the negative impact of bottle refusal. This programme of research aimed to explore UK mothers’ experiences of bottle refusal by their breastfed baby in order to generate an understanding of the scenario. A mixed methods research study was undertaken, comprising of an online questionnaire completed by 841 UK mothers, semi-structured interviews with 30 mothers, and 597 posts captured from three UK online parenting forums. The overall findings show that mothers introduce a bottle to their breastfed baby due to breastfeeding not always fitting with their lives. The majority of mothers view bottle refusal as a problem that needs to be solved, however there is no easy solution and for some mothers their baby’s bottle refusal is permanent. Support for mothers experiencing bottle refusal is not always helpful, with breastfeeding appearing to be the priority rather than mothers’ individual circumstances. Most mothers experience bottle refusal negatively, experiencing stress and anxiety, however some mothers are able to frame it more positively. The reasons why mothers believe their breastfed baby refuses to feed from a bottle include the physical differences between bottle and breastfeeding, their baby’s individual personality, and the delaying of the introduction of a bottle to prevent nipple confusion. The research findings point to bottle refusal being a complex scenario with negative outcomes for mothers. It requires greater recognition within infant feeding literature and practice, in order for mothers to be better supported when experiencing it. In addition, a ‘normalising’ of bottle refusal as a natural response by a baby could help mothers to frame it more positively.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Breastfeeding; Bottle feeding; bottle refusal; infant feeding; combi feeding
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Divisions: Public Health Institute
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2019 09:26
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2019 09:26
DOI or Identification number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00010480
Supervisors: Porcellato, L, Fleming, V and Kane, R
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10480

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