Can solicited diaries provide a different insight into healthcare research: Researcher perspectives from a study of women's experiences of breastfeeding




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Background This paper discusses the use of diaries as a research tool to explore women's experiences of breastfeeding. Aim A phenomenological methodology was used to explore women's experiences of breastfeeding in the first 6-8 weeks after giving birth. The challenges and issues that can arise when using diaries are discussed here. Data sources The study was conducted in an East Midlands region of the UK. Volunteer pregnant primiparous women over 34 week's gestation were recruited to the study. In total 22 primigravid women completed a written diary for analysis. Mothers were encouraged to record something in their diary once a day about their infant feeding experience. Findings Using diaries provides a unique opportunity to capture the lived experiences of participants. In addition to being an accepted data collection method, the participants found the diaries acted as a reflective mechanism. Participants found that it allowed them an opportunity to describe their feelings and emotions, particularly if their infant feeding experiences was not as they had anticipated. Conclusions Diaries provide a useful insight into a social and health phenomenon that is often not captured in qualitative studies and are complementary to methods that are more commonly used, for example interviews. Diaries provide a unique opportunity for participants to share their lived experiences in a contemporaneous way and could be utilised more effectively in other qualitative or mixed methods health studies.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


breastfeeding, data collection, innovative methods, participants' expereinces, qualitative research, research diaries


Hinsliff-Smith, K. and Spencer, R. (2016) Researcher perspectives from a study of women’s experiences of breastfeeding. Nurse researcher, 23(3), pp. 13-17.


Research Institute

Institute of Health, Health Policy and Social Care