Understanding teenage perceptions towards breastfeeding: A study of college students using focus group and questionnaires
AbstractBACKGROUND: There is extensive evidence showing that breastfeeding makes a major contribution to infant health and development. Breastfeeding has a vital contribution to make towards reducing health inequalities in the UK, with breastfeeding remaining more prevalent among older, more educated and socially advantaged women. Health promotion initiatives are driven by the Department of Health's goals of increasing breastfeeding initiation rates by 2% annually and reducing inequalities in health with particular focus on women from disadvantaged groups. However despite these efforts, breastfeeding rates in the UK remain the lowest in Europe. AIM: This study aims to understand the perceptions of teenagers towards breastfeeding in a Sure Start area where bottle-feeding is deeply entrenched. It investigates the students' attitudes and beliefs of breastfeeding but also their normative standards and values of breastfeeding. METHOD OF RESEARCH: The chosen method of research was using focus groups and self-completion questionnaires. Three focus groups were conducted to generate definite themes to which the questionnaires were designed. The selected sample consisted of 72 teenagers between the ages of 14-20 attending courses within the Health and Social Care and Business Departments within a Shropshire College of Further Education. FINDINGS: The majority of students, 62.5% believe that breastfeeding is a natural way to feed a baby though only 34% plan to breastfeed. The key themes identified to influence the students perceptions of breastfeeding were: intergenerational normative pressures; lack of knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding; witnessing breastfeeding; and bottle-feeding being perceived as having less adverse reactions such as embarrassment and exclusion. CONCLUSION: This study identified that health promotion initiatives should target breastfeeding education in schools and colleges, as evidence suggests knowledge is gained and valued positively by the pupils. The research also addressed the wider societal issue with breastfeeding; strategies should be in place to improve better facilities for breastfeeding in public so that breastfeeding is seen, supported and viewed as part of the normal process of life so family and societal influences do not undermine a women's decision to breastfeed.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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