Understanding the influence of personal identity in a breastfeeding support group
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An ethnographic study investigating the role, influence and importance of a small, peer led, rural breastfeeding support group

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Winning poster at the SPARC conference, 10-11 june 2010, University of Salford. Poster by Sally Bull from The Open University

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An ethnographic study investigating the role, influence and importance of a small, peer led, rural breastfeeding support group

  1. 1. Understanding the influence of personal identity in a breastfeeding support group Sally Bull :: Department of Social Sciences :: The Open University 1 Context 2 Breastfeeding support 4 Methodology 5 Timeline In the UK less than 1% of mothers exclusively Positive breastfeeding support is important from The study uses ethnographic research techniques, The final dissertation will be available from breastfeed their babies for the World Health midwives, health visitors, doctors, partners, family combining group observations with in-depth, semi- March 2011. Organisation’s (WHO) recommended 6 months.¹ and friends.⁶ structured interviewing. Ethnography June : planning Ethnography is a mainly qualitative approach to July /Aug : fieldwork research with the emphasis on observing human Aug/Oct: developing themes behaviour in a “natural” setting.⁹ Nov/Dec/Jan/Feb: writing up Support is also provided by breastfeeding support 1 March 2011: final dissertation groups, run by trained peer counsellors. The largest Group meeting of these is La Leche League International (LLL) 2 OBSERVATIONS New mother Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months post LLL: principles and problems INTERVIEWS 3 birth provides important health benefits for both The principles of LLL have been described as Group leader infant and mother.³ INTERVIEWS lying “outside” mainstream ideas of what mothering represents for most women.⁷ 3 The research aims Social Identity Theory 6 References Explains how people develop a sense of The group being studied is a small, rural breastfeeding ¹ World Health Organisation (2003) Global strategy for infant support group based in Cheshire, UK. “belonging” to a group by categorising and young child feeding, World Health Organisation ² Bolling, K. (2006) Infant feeding survey 2005: early results, The It is run by two long-term breastfeeding mothers who themselves and others. Personal identity can be Information Centre and the UK Health Departments ³ Cadwell, K. (2002) Reclaiming breastfeeding for the United have been trained as breastfeeding counsellors by States, Jones and Bartlett There is concern that the low rates of exclusive affirmed by the categories people feel represent LLL. ⁴ Dennis, C-L. (1999) ‘Theoretical underpinnings of breastfeeding is leading to the loss of them. ⁸ breastfeeding confidence: a self-efficacy framework’ Journal of “breastfeeding culture”.⁴ The group itself is not affiliated with LLL. human lactation, 15(3) ⁵ Porteous, R., Kaufman, K., Rush, J (2000) ‘The effect of individualized professional support on duration of This study aims to highlight best practice in breastfeeding’ Journal of human lactation, 16(4) ⁶ Rempel, LA. Rempel, JK. (2004) ‘Partner influence on health The importance of support running breastfeeding support groups and gain a behaviour decision-making; increasing breastfeeding duration.’ better understanding of the level to which group Journal of social and personal relationships, 21(1) Women who are positively supported carry on leader personal identity affects the support given ⁷ Bobel, C. G. (2001) ‘Bounded liberation: a focussed study of La The main aim of the research is to understand how Leche League International’ Gender and society, 15(1) breastfeeding for longer than women who receive the personal identity of the breastfeeding support to new mothers. ⁸ Tajfel, H., Fraser, C. (1978) Introducing social psychology, Penguin negative comments or no support at all.⁵ group leaders affects the new mothers looking for It may also highlight other under researched areas ⁹ Hammersley, M., Atkinson, P. (2007) Ethnography principles in support. in the field for further study. practice, 3rd edition, Oxon, Routledge This research project forms the dissertation for the MSc in Social Research Methods from the Open University. For further information please contact Sally Bull on +44 (0)7884073889 or sally_bull@hotmail.co.uk

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