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First published online December 22, 2014

Experience of non-breastfeeding mothers: Norms and ethically responsible risk communication



Breastfeeding is currently strongly recommended by midwives and paediatricians, and the recommendations are based on documents provided by the World Health Organization and public health authorities worldwide.

Research question:

The underlying question is, how are non-breastfeeding mothers affected emotionally when informed that breastfeeding is the safest and healthiest option?

Research design:

The method used is an anonymous web-based qualitative survey exploring the narratives of non-breastfeeding mothers, published on The aim is to achieve qualitative knowledge about the emotions of non-breastfeeding mothers.

Participants and research context:

Participants were based in Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands and were selected through a purposeful sample.

Ethical considerations:

The online survey anonymizes responses automatically, and all respondents had to tick a box agreeing to be quoted anonymously in scientific articles. The study conforms to research ethics guidelines.


Respondents describe how they were affected, and the following themes emerged in studying their descriptions: depression, anxiety and pain, feeling failed as a mother and woman, loss of freedom/feeling trapped, relief and guilt.


The themes are discussed against the background of the ethics of care and a theory of ethically responsible risk communication.


Three conclusions are made. First, the message should become more empathetic. Second, information should be given in an attentive dialogue. Third, information providers should evaluate effects in a more inclusive way.

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Published In

Article first published online: December 22, 2014
Issue published: March 2016


  1. Bonding
  2. breastfeeding
  3. non-breastfeeding mothers
  4. postnatal depression
  5. public health ethics
  6. risk communication
  7. the ethics of care

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© The Author(s) 2014.
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Published online: December 22, 2014
Issue published: March 2016
PubMed: 25533621



Jessica Nihlén Fahlquist
Uppsala University, Sweden; Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands


Jessica Nihlén Fahlquist, Uppsala University, Box 564, SE-751 22 Uppsala, Sweden. Email: [email protected]

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