International journal of nursing studies vol:45 issue:2 pages:286-297
BACKGROUND: Breastfeeding prevalence in the United Kingdom is one of the lowest in Europe. The midwife provides feeding support for new mothers but research suggests that midwives' knowledge of breastfeeding is limited. OBJECTIVE: To discover the views of English midwives in relation to their breastfeeding support role. DESIGN: Qualitative design. SETTINGS: Two maternity hospitals in Northwest England. PARTICIPANTS: Thirty midwives who cared for normal, healthy babies. Midwives were selected for interview using theoretical sampling principles from a pool of midwives who volunteered. Volunteers were accessed using a poster exhibited in relevant clinical areas. METHODS: Data were collected using audiotaped, in-depth interviews and were analysed using constant comparison techniques. RESULTS: The study highlights that differing professional knowledge and beliefs about breastfeeding support created intense, mainly negative, emotions for these midwives. Irritation and despair was experienced with the greater emphasis placed on research, rather than practice knowledge in policy and recommendations for practice. Disappointment was experienced when mothers did not conform to midwives' expectations. Conflict with differing peer-based knowledge generated feelings of intimidation and annoyance for some midwives. Some midwives demonstrated that they can sustain clinical decisions whilst based in a hostile environment, but others conformed to the practice expectations of their peers. Happiness was experienced when midwives described positive relationships with mothers, rather than their professional colleagues. CONCLUSIONS: The utilisation of professional knowledge in breastfeeding practice was a highly complex issue, and generated significant negative emotional distress, for these midwives.