"The sweet and the bitter": Mothers' experiences of breastfeeding in the early postpartum period: A qualitative exploratory study in China

Xiao Xiao, Alice Yuen Loke, She ning Zhu, Lin Gong, Hong mei Shi, Fei wan Ngai

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In China, the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months was only 20.8%. In promoting breastfeeding for newborns, a number of strategies have been initiated by Chinese government. These actions facilitated a high breastfeeding initiation of 77 to 99.9% in different regions. However, the exclusive breastfeeding rates remained low at 6 months resulting from a high rate of perceived insufficient breast milk and complementary feeding during the early days after childbirth. The aim of this study was to understand the experiences of women in Shenzhen with regard to breastfeeding in the first 6 weeks after giving birth, to identify the facilitators and barriers impacting their breastfeeding decisions and to identify their perceived support needs that might facilitate breastfeeding in the future. Methods: This was a qualitative exploratory study. Data were collected in November 2018 through semi-structured, face-to-face, in-depth interviews. A purposive sample of early postpartum women was recruited from a postpartum clinic of a tertiary maternal hospital in Shenzhen, China. The dataset was analysed using inductive content analysis. Results: A total of 22women were interviewed within the first 6 weeks after delivery. Three themes related to breastfeeding were identified from the transcribed interviews: "breastfeeding facilitators," "breastfeeding barriers," and "recommendations for breastfeeding promotion." Conclusions: Women experienced both joy and suffering in their journey of breastfeeding. Insufficient knowledge of breastfeeding, discomfort, intergenerational disagreements regarding nutritional supplements, and a lack of professional support contributed to difficulties and the threat of discontinuation. A supportive environment for breastfeeding is crucial for women's decision on exclusive breastfeeding and the psychological wellbeing of breastfeeding women. Interventions that target to promote exclusive breastfeeding should include both new mothers and significant family members. Future studies could test the effectiveness of breastfeeding training for home visit nurses to promote exclusive breastfeeding in the early postpartum.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
JournalInternational Breastfeeding Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2020


  • Breastfeeding
  • Breastfeeding initiation
  • Breastfeeding promotion
  • Breastfeeding support
  • Maternal mental health
  • Postpartum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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