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Title: A phenomenological exploration of infant feeding experiences, the mother-infant relationship and maternal wellbeing in mothers of infants with Down syndrome
Author: O'Farrell-Walsh, Rion
ISNI:       0000 0004 9351 6937
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2019
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Introduction: There is an acknowledged association between difficulties with infant feeding and increased maternal distress. It is also purported that difficulties with infant feeding can have the potential to undermine the developing mother-infant bond. Despite a recognised tendency towards initial feeding difficulties in infants with Down syndrome, little is known about how mothers experience feeding and bonding with their infant with Down syndrome, and how they make sense of these experiences. This thesis aimed to bridge existing gaps in the literature on infant feeding in Down syndrome, with potential implications for clinical practice and policy development. Method: Purposive sampling was used to recruit eight mothers of children with Down syndrome under the age of three. These mothers were interviewed about their experiences of feeding and bonding with their infant, and their perspectives on their personal wellbeing during the infant feeding period. To facilitate inductive, in-depth exploration of a previously underexplored research area, the interviews were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Results: Four superordinate themes were identified from analysis of participants’ interview data: ‘Negotiating control and assertions of power’; ‘It made things feel settled’; ‘It’s a real Bonding Experience’ and ‘Constructing Maternal Identity through feeding’. Discussion: The findings indicate that the experience of feeding a baby with Down syndrome can have multiple emotional facets, and can interact with womens’ constructions of themselves as mothers. Infant feeding was found to facilitate a sense of stability, security and normalcy when adjusting to having a baby with Down syndrome. The findings were evaluated in relation to available literature and considered within frameworks of psychological and feminist theory. Participants’ accounts point to the potential utility of compassion-focused therapeutic intervention for any mothers of infants with Down syndrome that may be facing difficulties with infant feeding. The novel findings of this study were considered in terms of their implications for elements of clinical practice and support interventions, and infant feeding healthcare policy development. The ways in which this study may function as a platform for future research are discussed.
Supervisor: Bryant, Lousie ; Russell, Amy ; Haddrill, Rosalind Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available