Finding 'The answers inside me': a model of empowerment through breastfeeding and weaning
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Breastfeeding confers numerous health benefits upon both nursing infants and their mothers, many of which increase as breastfeeding duration increases. These benefits have led to recommendations that mothers exclusively breastfeed their infants six months, continuing through at least the first year of life with the addition of complementary foods. Current breastfeeding rates fall short of these recommendations, and a growing disparity exists between women of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Although many factors contribute to breastfeeding cessation, little is understood about the ways in which women make weaning decisions. This study explored the process of weaning from the perspective of low-income women within the context of their own breastfeeding experiences. Low-income women who were in the process of weaning or who had recently weaned a breastfed child were theoretically sampled from rural communities in northeast Missouri. Individual interviews were conducted with 15 mothers who collectively had breastfed 30 children. Grounded theory method and constant comparative analysis were used to gather and analyze data. The resulting theory explains the psychosocial process through which women are empowered through breastfeeding and weaning. Throughout this process women actively build a base of support and information, make their own decisions, and discover much about themselves. Implications for nursing practice and research are discussed.
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