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Some women found breast feeding physically and emotionally demanding

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Q What are women’s experiences of pain and discomfort associated with breast feeding?


Qualitative, comparative sociological study.


2 postpartum units in Boston, Massachusetts, USA and Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


52 women (mean age 31 y) who gave birth vaginally approximately 5 weeks previously (mean 34 d postpartum) and had breast fed for any length of time. 62% of women were mothers for the first time. 37% of women were born outside of Canada and the US. 90% of women were still breast feeding at the time of the interview.


Women participated in semistructured, indepth interviews (mean duration 65 min). They were asked about their feeding practices, experiences, and assistance or support they received. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, checked for accuracy, and analysed for emergent themes. The analysis focused on 33 women who discussed pain and/or discomfort associated with breast feeding.


No one tells you. Women, especially first time mothers, found the duration and extent of physical …

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  • For correspondence: Dr C M Kelleher, McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA, USA. Christa.kelleher{at}

  • Source of funding: US Department of Health and Human Services (AHRQ grant R03 HS10790–01).