Previous awareness of breastfeeding

Most of the women whom we interviewed knew very little about breastfeeding at the time that they became pregnant except that many thought it would be a nice experience as they had seen other women who seemed to be enjoying it. They often came from families where bottle feeding was the norm and were a bottle fed generation themselves, since it was unfashionable to breastfeed at that time. It is interesting, then, that many of them had a strong desire to breastfeed because of the benefits that they thought breastfeeding had for them and their baby. Many women also thought that breastfeeding was the natural way to feed a baby. However, some embarked upon breastfeeding with “unrealistic expectations”.

Many of the women said that their own mothers had told them of their experiences, including their mothers' inability to breastfeed their babies, often because of the unsupportive and inappropriate environment at the time. Many of these older women had attempted to breastfeed on a four-hourly schedule and gave up because of an unsettled baby who failed to gain weight at the required rate, which they thought was due to not having enough milk. The older women sometimes unwittingly passed on these seeds of doubt to their daughters or made discouraging remarks that impacted upon the women's understanding of breastfeeding. 

On the other hand, some women came from strong breastfeeding backgrounds and just assumed that they would also breastfeed. Many, but not all, of them had seen female relatives and/or friends breastfeeding in Britain and abroad. They said that seeing other women breastfeeding was useful but several wished that they had taken more notice. Some women had discussed breastfeeding with their mothers, sisters, female relatives and friends. Some were aware of strong cultural expectations that they breastfeed (see 'Cultural aspects of breastfeeding').

A few women talked about being involved in caring for their younger siblings, including bottle feeding them, and then eventually went on to breastfeed their own children. Others remember seeing their siblings being breastfed.

A couple of women mentioned being aware of breastfeeding from a political perspective, one because her own family had been involved in the boycott of Nestlé products because the company promoted the unethical use of infant formula in developing countries and the other because she was a member of Baby Milk Action, a breastfeeding advocacy group (see 'Reflecting upon Breastfeeding' section).

Last reviewed November 2018.
Last updated November 2011



Please use the form below to tell us what you think of the site. We’d love to hear about how we’ve helped you, how we could improve or if you have found something that’s broken on the site. We are a small team but will try to reply as quickly as possible.

Please note that we are unable to accept article submissions or offer medical advice. If you are affected by any of the issues covered on this website and need to talk to someone in confidence, please contact The Samaritans or your Doctor.

Make a Donation to

Find out more about how you can help us.

Send to a friend

Simply fill out this form and we'll send them an email