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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Kimberly Jamie

Jamie, Kimberly, O'Neill, Roisin, Bows, Hannah & Hackshaw-McGeagh, Lucy (2020). Healthcare Practitioner Relationships, Cultural Health Capital and Breastfeeding Support for Adolescent Mothers. Health Education Journal 79(8): 901-913.

Author(s) from Durham


Breastfeeding is the optimal method of infant nutrition. Despite this, rates of breastfeeding in high-income countries are low and mirror wider health inequalities with women from under-served populations being least likely to breastfeed. In the UK, adolescent mothers from areas of high socio-economic deprivation are among the least likely groups to initiate and continue breastfeeding. This study aimed to examine young women’s experiences of breastfeeding, with a particular focus on information provision and relationships with healthcare practitioners.

Methods, design and setting:
Data were collected through qualitative focus groups and interviews with 27 adolescent mothers from areas of socio-economic deprivation in Belfast (Northern Ireland), Bristol (South West England) and Middlesbrough (North East England). Questions focused on the support young mothers receive for breastfeeding with a particular focus on the importance of healthcare practitioners in breastfeeding practices.

Although young mothers were well-informed about the benefits of breastfeeding, they lacked basic information which led to early cessation. Moreover, mismatched cultural health capital between healthcare practitioners and adolescent mothers led to perceived strained relationships wherein young mothers felt undermined and not listened to. We suggest that this arises from an intersection of age-related lack of confidence and low cultural health capital arising from differences in socio-economic status.

Recommendations are offered for a more holistic approach to young mothers’ maternal health and the use of peer supporters.