Support from hospital staff

Most, but not all, of the women we interviewed gave birth in some form of maternity or birthing unit. Emotions ran high in the neonatal period and they spoke powerfully of the impact of the support and care that they received from staff on the quality of their experience. Many mentioned the need to be able to trust the people who cared for them and to have confidence in their professional experience and knowledge. It often came down to the support of one specific person, usually a nurse or midwife, offering the right advice and encouragement at a crucial moment. Many women were offered support and advice in the middle of the night when their baby was a bit restless and found it very comforting.

Several women appreciated the opportunity to spend extra time in hospital to take advantage of the freedom from other responsibilities and the availability of expertise in order to feel confident about their breastfeeding before going home with the new baby.

It was not only maternity care staff members who were important. Those mothers who were themselves very ill or who had very ill babies spoke of the impact that staff on both adult and neonatal intensive care wards, who often had little breastfeeding knowledge, could have upon breastfeeding outcomes (see 'When extra care is needed for mother and/or baby').

Many women talked about how busy the delivery suite was at the time that they gave birth and were very generous in the allowances they made for over-stretched and occasionally poorly informed staff members. However, for some, this was a less than satisfactory experience, particularly for those women who were reluctant to bother busy midwives to ask for help and for those who felt that they were being bullied or blackmailed into getting breastfeeding going properly or bottle feeding before they could go home. As a result of unsatisfactory care, negative staff attitudes and a general dislike of hospitals, several women discharged themselves early. 

Conflicting advice from a variety of staff members and the lack of continuity in their care because of shift changes led to confusion for some women. There was also some criticism of early intervention in the feeding process, particularly the introduction of bottles of either expressed breastmilk or infant formula to deal with the baby's low blood sugars or jaundice, when breastfeeding alone may have managed the situation (see 'Dealing with difficult times'). 


Last reviewed November 2018.
Last updated November 2011.


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