“I’ve Accomplished Something Here” The Lived Experience of Employed Breastfeeding Mothers: A Phenomenological Analysis

Jennifer Diane Stewart-Glenn

Abstract

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to describe the experience of employed breastfeeding mothers. Using a phenomenological approach based on the works of Merleau-Ponty, the researcher completed 13 interviews in which mothers with experience working full-time while breastfeeding were asked to describe their experiences. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a hermeneutical approach developed by Pollio and applied to nursing research by Thomas. Each interview was examined within the context of all the interviews to identify themes found throughout. For the participants, the world of the workplace is the contextual ground and the workplace is predominately unsupportive of breastfeeding employees. Varying complex conflicts arise for the participants while trying to be both a “good” mother and a “good” employee. While participants’ experiences were grounded in the unsupportive world of the workplace, aspects of their experience became figural at any given moment. Participants experienced the world of the workplace both by and through their breastfeeding bodies and the world of the workplace is very much grounded in the context of time. An encompassing central theme of “there’s conflict” wove throughout the interviews as participants described the emotional, social, and physical conflicts they encountered. Eight overlapping subthemes manifested within the encompassing theme including: (1) “As your priority, it consumes you;” (2) “At work it is just different;” (3) “It’s embarrassing” (4) “veil yourself;” (5) “if they would just let me;” (6) “not what it looks like on TV;” (7) “You have to be brave;” (8) “I’ve accomplished something here.” Each theme revealed a unique context of “there’s conflict.