Self-Blame and Self-Compassion in Breastfeeding

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Piper, Melanie
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Breastfeeding is widely endorsed and promoted as the most optimal infant feeding practice, and in Canada, breastfeeding initiation rates have increased substantially over the past five decades. Although breastfeeding has been more evidently embraced, Canadian-based statistics report that nearly a quarter of nursing mothers stop breastfeeding within the first four weeks of their baby's life. The physical suffering associated with breast and nipple pain and the psychological distress related to disrupted nursing practices negatively impact breastfeeding relationships and maternal mental health. This autoethnography strives to meaningfully explore these mothering challenges with an insider look into the personal difficulties that I encountered during the first six weeks of breastfeeding my first baby. Emergent themes of self-blame and self-compassion are examined and considered alongside the sociocultural norms and healthcare practices which influenced these emotional experiences. Noting that self-compassion can be utilized as a preventative measure in the prenatal period and as a coping strategy in the postpartum period, this thesis highlights the applicability of self-compassion work in various clinical and therapeutic settings. The view that mother-centered practices should be integrated with infant-focused care is presented and the perspective that there are many different ways in which a mother can provide nurturance and nourishment to her baby outside of breastfeeding is offered. In acknowledgement of the gaps that currently exist in the literature and the need to advance our understanding of how self-compassion can best support mothers experiencing breastfeeding difficulties, directions for future research are also discussed.
breastfeeding , infant feeding practices , breast and nipple pain , self-blame , self-compassion , sociocultural norms , mothering , autoethnography