Toward a women-centred approach to infant feeding research
This thesis aimed to provide an integrated model of infant feeding, centred on women's experiences. Two studies were employed in order to meet this aim. Firstly, a questionnaire-based longitudinal study within a Social Cognitive framework was carried out in order to understand the internal and external processes involved in the infant feeding experience. Eighty-five first time mothers participated in this study. Participants were assessed at three stages; once during pregnancy, once at six to eight, and again at four to six moths postpartum. The results of the longitudinal study supported the use of the Social Cognitive framework, and more specifically the applications of both the Theory of Reasoned Action (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980), and Self-Efficacy Theory (Bandura, 1977). Further, analysis revealed support for the conceptualisation of Social Support in this study, and enhanced understanding of the role of external variables. The second study contained within this thesis was a qualitative interview-based study of the infant feeding experiences of eight participants of the longitudinal study who volunteered to be interviewed. The combination of the results of the quantitative longitudinal study and the qualitative study gave rise to a reconceptualisation of infant feeding encompassing three phases; the decision phase, the initiation phase, and the maintenance phase that were formed and are themselves guided by internal and external processes based on women's individual experiences. It is proposed that this integrated model can be used as a platforn1 for the furthering of women-centred theoretically based infant feeding research, and furthermore, the development of women-centred, evidence-based practice.