Stories of Breastfeeding Advocates: The Significance of Informal Learning

Stories of Breastfeeding Advocates: The Significance of Informal Learning

Leah Poirier (Colchester East Hants District Health Authority, Canada)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8265-8.ch006
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Health educators can be influenced by a multitude of learning factors that are shaped by informal, non-formal, and formal environments. The topic of breastfeeding provides an interesting context for this exploration, as it spans formal professionalization, on-the-job-training, and personal embodied experiences of women. This chapter links adult education theory to a research study that examined what, where, and how positive breastfeeding views were learned. Narrative inquiry with five women yielded stories that revealed how their perspectives were shaped by learning domains. Emergent themes indicate informal learning was pivotal in shaping both attitudes and knowledge. This suggests a need for health professionals to reflect on their experiences as these influence views and practices. Gaining a better understanding of breastfeeding advocates may equip us to address barriers, guide the professionalization of future practitioners, and support advocacy efforts for policies aimed at fostering supportive learning environments.
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Atkins and Gingras (2009) pointed out, “education is a critical site for developing a professional identity (p. 181).” Focusing this study on breastfeeding advocates offers a unique opportunity to intermingle job-related learning acquired in the public domain and unpaid volunteer or home-place learning. This is an important area of focus for numerous reasons. Scholars and practitioners have increasingly questioned the utility of the dichotomy between formal and informal learning and many have struggled to solidify clear definitions of each type of learning.

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