Breastfeeding: Patients Think Docs Should Have a Role

September 8, 2014

New moms want guidance and support when it comes to breastfeeding, and they report that clinicians generally fail to provide either.

A small study found clinicians and hospital staff were often unhelpful in supporting breastfeeding, hindering the success of nursing mothers.

Pertinent Points

- A small study based on individual interviews with breastfeeding mothers indicated that clinicians should do more to support women in their breastfeeding efforts.

- The study participants perceived that little assistance came from clinicians and that it hindered breastfeeding success.

The study, which consisted of in-depth interviews with 21 mothers in the Athens-Clarke County area of Georgia, validated the need for peer support groups and clinician support for women to be successful with breastfeeding. The findings of this exploratory qualitative study were reported in the Journal of Neonatal Nursing by researchers from the University of Georgia. Although the study was small and localized, the experiences of the participants likely are not unique.

While peer support was critical for success, the authors also noted that about 75% of mothers reported negative or no support from their clinicians. In addition, some interviewees said that clinicians failed to speak openly and honestly about the potential problems and difficulties that arise with breastfeeding.

"Mothers who received that support are more likely to be successful at breastfeeding," said study coauthor Alex Anderson, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences department of foods and nutrition. "Most of them attributed the support they received to the peer counselors, which goes to show that if we have community breastfeeding peer counselors, they can help a lot of mothers."

The lack of support from physicians and other clinicians could be because breastfeeding consultation requires time, Anderson speculated. He suggested that to effectively help a breastfeeding mother requires at least 30 minutes.

Still, he argued that educating clinicians on their role in breastfeeding support is paramount. He also cited the role of support programs that use lactation consultants and peer support as ways to improve support for breastfeeding mothers.