Suspended liminality: breastfeeding and becoming a mother in two NICUs in Jordan

Shattnawi, Khulood Kayed Mofleh (2013) Suspended liminality: breastfeeding and becoming a mother in two NICUs in Jordan. Doctoral thesis, Anglia Ruskin University.

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OBJECTIVES: To explore why so few mothers breastfeed when their babies are admitted to neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and to gain an understanding of the impact of this for the mothers and staff involved. DESIGN: This study adopted an ethnographic approach. The data collection involved 135 hours of participant observation over a 6-month period and 32 semi-structured interviews of 17 mothers, 10 nurses, and 5 physicians. FINDINGS: Data from the participants’ interviews and the participant observation were analysed focusing on the two different perspectives; one relating to the mothers and the other to the staff members and their working conditions. The mothers’ experiences were revealed as a developing process as their feeling changed from fearful and terrifying toward becoming and feeling like a ‘real’ mother. Their experience of mothering and breastfeeding differed from their expectations in that breastfeeding became a complex process for some and impossible for others. Five distinct themes emerged; the first highlighted the crisis, which involved the mother's feelings of emotional instability, their strategies for coping such as not visiting the baby, and recognition of the NICU as a stressful environment. The second theme described issues relating to control and power. This involved the perception of having a lack of control and needing to seek permission, the use of language as a mechanism for control, and mothers being placed in a subordinate role. The third theme related to the separation, which included difficulties of acceptance, feeling like stranger and not being important, and the need for physical closeness. Acceptance and adaptation comprised the fourth theme in which gradual acceptance occurred and a spiritual aspect emerged. The final theme, becoming a mother, included issues such as the special moments, breastfeeding as a turning point, and practical and informational needs. Almost all the mothers in this study spoke about going through all these stages during their infants’ stay in the NICU. Analysis of these findings suggests that mothers who deliver prematurely, may have their rite of passage into motherhood interrupted, resulting in them being placed in a position of suspended liminality. v The data also suggest that while staff members agree with the benefits of breastfeeding for preterm infants, the actual implementation of a breastfeeding policy within the neonatal units is more problematic. Three key themes emerged from the analysis relating to the staff perspectives. The first described the contradiction that exists between the staff beliefs and behaviours in relation to breastfeeding and supporting mothers. Elements that comprised this theme were “breast milk is best”, perceiving breastfeeding promotion as a nicety not a necessity; lacking support for mothers, and abdication of responsibility. The second theme related to their working conditions: this included a lack of institutional support for the health care team, and barriers to support breastfeeding. The final theme of controlling relationships captured the essence of the practitioner: mother association. Together, these elements revealed a situation whereby staff appeared more preoccupied in addressing the task aspect of care for the babies than supporting mothers in feeding and subsequently mothering their preterm child. CONCLUSIONS: An understanding of the experiences of mothers of preterm infants who wish to breastfeed, and the connection that breastfeeding has to the process of becoming a mother, allows for the finding of more positive strategies to support mothers and breastfeeding within the NICU. This study reveals a new understanding of how breastfeeding is connected to the process of becoming a mother, within the context of two Jordanian NICUs. It also highlights the difficult working conditions for nurses within these units. It is anticipated that recognition of these findings may assist with service developments and lead to improvements in the NICU environment in Jordan, thus enhancing health care delivery in accordance with the individual needs of infants and their mothers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Citation: Shattnawi, K.K.M., 2013. Suspended liminality: breastfeeding and becoming a mother in two NICUs in Jordan. Ph. D. Anglia Ruskin University..
Faculty: Theses from Anglia Ruskin University
Depositing User: Repository Admin
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2014 11:31
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 19:02

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