Background The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding of infants for six months when complementary feeds are introduced whilst continuing breastfeeding for up to two years of age and beyond. Ongoing predictable support to breastfeeding mothers is essential to improve breastfeeding rates and paediatric hospital doctors and nurses have an opportunity to provide this support when breastfed infants are admitted to their wards.
Objectives This study aimed to assess the breastfeeding knowledge, attitudes, and practices amongst paediatric healthcare professionals in a large teaching hospital in the UK.
Methods We conducted a qualitative study through a self-administered online questionnaire. Participants were doctors, nurses, nursery nurses and student nurses working in the paediatric department at the time of the study. There were 32 respondents, 14 of these were doctors.
Emergent themes were identified and analysed across all interviews. Five themes emerged: Breastfeeding knowledge and training, the influence of paediatric work experience, practitioner attitude towards breastfeeding, role in breastfeeding and practice in supporting breastfeeding.
Almost all the participants had good levels of breastfeeding knowledge though only 50% of doctors had received formal breastfeeding training and were relying on personal experience whilst 70% of nurses had received training.
All participants had a positive attitude towards breastfeeding with nurses mostly indicating comfort in the role of supporting mothers. A significant proportion of doctors indicated a lack of conviction in their ability to support breastfeeding mothers.
Inconsistent advice would be offered to mothers about bottle feeding by different practitioners.
Conclusions 7 out of 14 doctors had no breastfeeding training and doctors were found to be less confident in the role of supporting breastfeeding mothers. There was good knowledge base amongst all the healthcare professionals however the actual practice of advice offered in supporting mothers was inconsistent amongst practitioners.
We hope that the results of this study will encourage formal breastfeeding education to be offered for all health care professionals working in paediatrics and the development of departmental breastfeeding policies to enable consistency whilst improving the care offered to patients and their families.
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