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BLOG: When did you last see someone breastfeeding?

A mother breastfeeding her baby

Blog by Dr Lisa Orchard. Lisa is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology and a Cyberpsychology researcher. Her research explores way of using technology to improve breastfeeding support. 

World Breastfeeding Week runs from 1 to 7 August 2023 this year. To many, this may not have any significant meaning. Indeed, we’ve started to become accustomed to the random ‘celebration days’ we find scattered across social media. In the last month alone we’ve seen World Emoji Day and Ice Cream Day. It’s easy to assume that World Breastfeeding Week may hold the same level of triviality.

However, for others, World Breastfeeding Week is deeply important, potentially very emotive, and offers individuals an opportunity to reflect on their experiences, share their stories and have their voices heard.  

In line with the World Health Organization, Public Health England (PHE, 2021) highlights breastfeeding as a key health priority. Breastfeeding is aligned with more positive health outcomes and research suggests that an increase in breastfeeding rates may also have positive economical benefits. However, Unicef (2022) reports that the UK has some of the worst breastfeeding rates globally. Specifically, they highlight that eight out of ten women stop breastfeeding before they want to. This suggests that people within the UK want to breastfeed but are not receiving appropriate support to fulfil their goals.

The UK is letting families down, and at a personal level this can often result in severe consequences, such as breastfeeding grief and trauma (Brown, 2019). So, what can we do to tackle this? There is no easy answer, but we can look towards research to better understand potential solutions or strategies. 

My colleagues and I are currently writing up a study that explored the sharing of ‘brelfies’ (i.e., breastfeeding selfies). We interviewed eleven UK breastfeeding mothers to talk about their experiences of sharing such breastfeeding imagery online. We used an analysis called ‘Reflexive Thematic Analysis’ (Braun & Clark, 2021) to explore patterns across the interviews and to construct ‘themes’ of ideas being discussed. Although I won’t summarise the whole paper here, one of these themes holds particular importance to the current issue. 

The mothers in our research felt that breastfeeding needed to be normalised. They suggested that UK society often misunderstands breastfeeding, and this can lead to misinformation. Breastfeeding is hidden within UK society; we don’t see it and, subsequently, we don’t learn about. These mothers talked about their own struggles with breastfeeding and their goal to support and encourage others by breaking down the barriers that they themselves faced. Many felt that sharing breastfeeding imagery could increase the visibility of breastfeeding, which may break the censorship surrounding it. If the UK better understood breastfeeding, then society may be better placed to support breastfeeding. Families would have the information they need to know whether they wish to try breastfeeding, and those wanting to breastfeed would have stronger support from those around them as they move through their feeding journey. World Breastfeeding Week opens the door to conversations about what breastfeeding is really like and provides an invitation to share breastfeeding images and stories as a way to raise awareness and provide role models to aspire to. 

So, this week, let me challenge you by asking “When did you last ‘see’ breastfeeding?”. If you’re not sure, then please take the time to learn more about breastfeeding throughout World Breastfeeding Week.  


Braun, V., & Clark, V. (2021). Thematic Analysis: A Practical Guide. Sage Publications. 

Brown, A. (2019). Why Breastfeeding Grief and Trauma Matter. Pinter and Martin. 

Public Health England (2021, May 19). Early years high impact area 3: Supporting breastfeeding. 

Unicef (2022, March). Breastfeeding in the UK. Breastfeeding in the UK - Baby Friendly Initiative ( 

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