A Qualitative Exploration of the Attitudes and Experiences of Polish Breastfeeding Mothers in Ireland

J Hum Lact. 2021 May;37(2):370-379. doi: 10.1177/0890334420959028. Epub 2020 Oct 8.


Background: Breastfeeding rates in Ireland are among the lowest in the world. Improving the prevalence of breastfeeding is an objective of the Irish Health Service Executive, with the recognition that this would improve public health. Polish people represent the largest immigrant group in Ireland, and Polish women are more likely to initiate breastfeeding than Irish women.

Research aims: This study had two aims: (1) to describe the breastfeeding experiences and attitudes among Polish mothers living in Ireland, and (2) to explore similarities and differences in infant feeding experiences, attitudes, and beliefs among Polish and Irish women, as perceived by Polish women.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted in Polish with Polish mothers (N = 16) who had lived in Ireland for 10 years or less. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and translated into English. Data were analyzed using qualitative thematic analysis. Coding was a cyclical process; codes were amended and refined through iterative reading of the transcripts. Themes were developed through categorization of codes and via in-depth discussion between two analysts.

Results: Three major themes were developed after analyzing the data. First, there is no universal correct way to provide support for infant feeding; women would like individualized support based on their infant-feeding decisions. Second, breastfeeding is an inherent part of Polish culture and formula feeding is part of Irish culture. Finally, the Irish social environment is supportive of breastfeeding and breastfeeding in public is acceptable in Ireland.

Conclusions: Although the Irish social environment is supportive of breastfeeding, the infant-formula culture is a barrier to breastfeeding. Future research should explore ways to change societal attitudes towards breastfeeding in Ireland.

Keywords: breastfeeding; breastfeeding practices; cultural norms; qualitative methods.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Ireland
  • Mothers*
  • Poland
  • Qualitative Research