"Work with us… to make it more accessible". What women with intellectual disabilities want from infant-feeding health resources: an exploratory study

Int Breastfeed J. 2023 Dec 8;18(1):67. doi: 10.1186/s13006-023-00606-9.


Background: More women with intellectual disabilities are becoming mothers but fewer are known to breastfeed compared with other women. Women with intellectual disabilities are entitled to accessible antenatal and infant feeding information, yet are rarely asked for their views on available resources. This article reports on the final stage of a UK project exploring how women with intellectual disabilities are supported to make infant feeding decisions. The wider project includes a scoping review and interviews with healthcare professionals, here we focus on the voices of the women themselves.

Methods: Four women with an intellectual disability participated in a focus group where they were asked to give their views on the accessibility of currently available infant feeding resources and on alternative representations of infant feeding. All were interested in women's health issues, including infant feeding. Photo-elicitation was used to gather views on videos, bespoke 'Easy Read' material and several alternative representations of infant feeding. A transcription of the discussion was thematically analysed whilst a critical visual analysis was undertaken of the women's preferred images/resources. The study took place in Bristol, UK, during 2022.

Results: Two themes were identified from the group discussion: 'The desire for choice' and 'How easy is 'Easy Read'?' The desire for choice was expressed in terms through agreements and disagreements about preferred imagery, differing tastes, and reasons for these preferences. We identified a challenge to 'Easy Read' as a default standard and concerns that some forms of 'Easy Read' can confuse rather than inform. Critical visual analysis identified the importance of the story and social setting of the preferred infant feeding image.

Conclusions: Findings suggest a need for a suite of resources, avoiding the one-size-fits-all approach, including people with an intellectual disability at every stage of the design and production process. Resources should recognise and embrace differences in terms of understanding, visual literacy and cultural taste, as well as being freely available to support women with intellectual disabilities to make informed infant feeding decisions. An accessible film was co-produced, to disseminate the findings from all three stages of the completed project.

Keywords: Accessible resources; Breastfeeding; Infant feeding; Intellectual disabilities; Resources; Visual methodologies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Mothers
  • Women's Health