Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: The sweet and the bitter : mothers' experiences of breastfeeding in the early postpartum period : a qualitative exploratory study in China
Authors: Xiao, X 
Loke, AY 
Zhu, SN
Gong, L
Shi, HM
Ngai, FW 
Issue Date: 2020
Source: International breastfeeding journal, 24 Feb. 2020, v. 15, 12, p. 1-11
Abstract: 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.
Keywords: Breastfeeding
Maternal mental health
Breastfeeding support
Breastfeeding promotion
Breastfeeding initiation
Publisher: BioMed Central
Journal: International breastfeeding journal 
EISSN: 1746-4358
DOI: 10.1186/s13006-020-00256-1
Rights: © The Author(s). 2020 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
The following publication Xiao, X., Loke, A.Y., Zhu, S. et al. “The sweet and the bitter”: mothers’ experiences of breastfeeding in the early postpartum period: a qualitative exploratory study in China. Int Breastfeed J 15, 12 (2020) is available at
Appears in Collections:Journal/Magazine Article

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Xiao_Breastfeeding_Early_Postpartum.pdf390.47 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
View full-text via PolyU eLinks SFX Query
Show full item record
PIRA download icon_1.1View/Download Full Text

Page view(s)

Citations as of Oct 18, 2020


Citations as of Oct 18, 2020

Google ScholarTM



Items in DSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.