Infant feeding decisions have become a familiar topic of discussion among policymakers, academics, mothers, and the general public. Mothers, many of whom are at the most vulnerable stage of their lives, must decide which feeding option is best for them and their babies but often come across physical, practical, or cultural difficulties when making these choices. According to the latest Infant Feeding Survey, in the UK over 80% of mothers initiate breastfeeding but only 1% manage to meet WHO guidelines of exclusively breastfeed at 6 months.
Research has shown that an emphasis on the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding can be alienating for mothers who choose to introduce formula milk. Our previous research revealed that mothers who initiate breastfeeding and then move to formula appear to be particularly susceptible to feelings of distress as a result of “failing” in motherhood, which in turn can lead to feelings of guilt and shame during this vulnerable time. Motherhood Quilt and Guilt aims to create a discussion around negative emotional experiences, such as shame and guilt, arising from the introduction of formula and combination feeding that is likely to resonate with the majority of women in Wales.
The collaborative project with researchers from Swansea, Aberystwyth and Northumbria Universities, will explore mother’s complex experiences of feeding practices through a community quilting project- following in the Welsh, feminist quilting tradition. To participate in this project, mothers are invited to submit a used baby sleepsuit, with a voice clip or written text of their experiences of feeding to accompany it. These donated materials will be turned into a quilt in a series of community stitching workshops with mothers of children of all ages in Swansea and Aberystwyth. Following this, the research team will assemble the finished quilt, and touch-sensitive electronics to embed the pre-recorded audio clips.
At the end of the project, we will exhibit this co-created interactive quilt in venues across Wales to stimulate public discussion around infant feeding choices and amplify mothers’ complex experiences of motherhood.
For more information on the project, please visit the project’s online participant information sheet.