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Women's Sense of Coherence related to their infant feeding experiences

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Given the overwhelming evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding, and yet the low prevalence rates in the UK, it is crucial to understand the influences on women's infant feeding experiences to target and promote effective support. As part of an evaluation study of the implementation of the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) Community Award within two primary (community-based) care trusts in North West England, 15 women took part in an in-depth interview to explore their experiences, opinions and perceptions of infant feeding. In this paper, we have provided a theoretical interpretation of these women's experiences by drawing upon Aaron Antonovsky's Sense of Coherence (SOC) theory. The SOC is a global orientation to how people are able to cope with stressors and maintain a sense of well-being. The three constructs that underpin the SOC are ‘comprehensibility’ (one must believe that one understands the life challenge), ‘manageability’ (one has sufficient resources at one's disposal) and ‘meaningfulness’ (one must want to cope with the life challenge). In this paper, our interpretations explore how infant feeding is influenced by the ‘comprehensibility’, ‘manageability’ and ‘meaningfulness’ of this event; contextualized within a wider socio-cultural perspective. The findings of this paper offer a unique means through which the influences on women's experiences of infant feeding may be considered. Recommendations and suggestions for practice in relation to the implementation of the BFI have also been presented.

Keywords: Sense of coherence; infant feeding; socio-cultural influences; women's experiences

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2011


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