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Qual Health Res. 2012 Oct;22(10):1345-54. doi: 10.1177/1049732312451873. Epub 2012 Jul 11.

Using Goffman's theories of social interaction to reflect first-time mothers' experiences with the social norms of infant feeding.

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  • 1Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia.


Infant feeding, particularly breastfeeding, is an important public health issue because early feeding methods have been shown to influence health throughout childhood. We investigated how social norms influence first-time mothers' decisions around feeding methods. We conducted two in-depth interviews with 11 first-time mothers, the first 3 weeks after birth and the second 3 months following birth. We analyzed interview data using a third-level, thematic analysis, using Goffman's theories of social interaction to guide our analysis. Our results highlighted several issues surrounding breastfeeding in modern society. We propose that nursing mothers are conscious of adhering to social norms of being a good mother, but must also cope with societal views about presenting normal appearances when they need to feed their babies in public.

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