Body and baby: The subjective experience of new motherhood for women with disordered eating
The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore the relationship between new mothers with disordered eating and their infants. The transition into motherhood can be demanding for any woman, and new mothers who also struggle with eating disorders face additional challenges. A review of the literature on attachment has indicated that attachment styles are formed in the first years of life and are shaped by the relationship between an infant and her primary caregiver, who is often thought to be the mother. These early experiences shape an individual's internal working model, which typically follow one throughout her life. Research has suggested that individuals with eating disorders have failed to experience a secure base from their primary caregivers, thus creating attachments that are of an insecure style. Since it is believed that these individuals have insecure styles of attaching, as new mothers, it may be more difficult for them to connect with, and attach to, their babies.
Nine mothers with a history of disordered eating completed an online survey for this study, which included a demographic questionnaire and ten open-ended questions regarding new motherhood. The participants described both their strained childhood relations with their parents, and the love and sense of purpose they feel as new mothers. They noted their concerns in passing on their eating disordered behaviors to their offspring, in feeding their infants solid foods, in their feelings about their body image, and their difficulty in maintaining self-care. Unexpectedly, a majority of the participants did not reveal having any negative feelings towards their infants. Additionally, they reported nursing their babies for a greater than average length of time than expected and described their attempts at healthy eating in the postpartum period. The present study adds to the body of literature on new motherhood and eating disorders. It provides additional insight into the positive aspects and more challenging positions women with disordered eating face as they transition into motherhood.
Individual & family studies
0628: Individual & family studies