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Autistic women's views and experiences of infant feeding: A systematic review of qualitative evidence

Grant, Aimee, Jones, Sara, Williams, Kathryn, Leigh, Jennifer and Brown, Amy 2022. Autistic women's views and experiences of infant feeding: A systematic review of qualitative evidence. Autism 26 (6) , pp. 1341-1352. 10.1177/13623613221089374

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Low breastfeeding rates are driven by multiple bio-psycho-social factors. Experience of breastfeeding is known to differ by maternal demographic factors (age, education and ethnicity) but there is less recognition of factors such as neurodivergence. This review, prospectively registered with PROSPERO (registration number: CRD42021271465), systematically identified qualitative research, commentaries and personal accounts related to Autistic mothers and infant feeding. Database searching identified 1225 records, with thematic synthesis undertaken on 22 (eight peer-reviewed studies and 14 grey literature) pieces. Our analysis identified that maternity and infant feeding services were built on a lack of understanding of Autistic needs, and were often inaccessible at a time when Autistic mothers already felt a loss of control and lack of social support. Specifically relating to breastfeeding, knowledge and determination were often high, and a minority of mothers reported positive breastfeeding experiences. However, sensory challenges, pain and interoceptive differences (exacerbated by a lack of support) made breastfeeding impossible for some. Infant formula was viewed as second-best to breastmilk, but a minority of mothers found the ritual of preparing bottles of formula positive. There is an urgent need for maternity and infant feeding services to accommodate the needs of Autistic mothers, including service design and staff training.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 1362-3613
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 25 October 2022
Date of Acceptance: 7 March 2022
Last Modified: 10 May 2023 06:49

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