Objective: This study aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of the experience of South African working mothers in the adherence to exclusive breastfeeding when returning from maternity leave.
Methods: The data of the study was collected using face-to-face semi-structured interviews. Eight breastfeeding mothers were purposefully selected from two primary health care clinics in Rustenburg, North West Province, South Africa. The data were coded, categorized, and clustered into themes using Giorgi's phenomenological analysis. Ethical considerations and measures of trustworthiness were adhered to throughout the study.
Results: The findings revealed three themes: a desire for working mothers to continue the adherence to exclusive breastfeeding, workplace support for breastfeeding mothers in the adherence to exclusive breastfeeding, and an unsuitable workplace environment for the adherence to exclusive breastfeeding. Six sub-themes were identified: the need to return to the workplace soon after baby's birth, psychological responses in the adherence to exclusive breastfeeding, lack of support from employers and co-workers in the adherence to exclusive breastfeeding, lack of or partial implementation of breastfeeding policies in the workplace, the workplace not being supportive for mothers' having to express and the workplace not being supportive for mothers' having to store breastmilk.
Conclusion: Based on the findings, South African government should revisit employment policies to support working mothers who need to continue with exclusive breastfeeding after returning from maternity leave.
Keywords: Breast feeding; Qualitative research; South Africa; Workplace.
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