Long-Term Breastfeeding Support: Failing Mothers in Need
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This qualitative study analyzes mothers’ reports of breastfeeding care experiences from pregnancy through infancy. Most research on medical support for breastfeeding examines a specific practice or intervention during an isolated phase of care. Little is know about how mothers experience breastfeeding education and support from the prenatal period through their child’s first year. A convenience sample of 75 black and white WIC participants with infants was recruited at three Maryland WIC agencies. In-depth interviews covered mothers' comprehensive experiences of breastfeeding education and support from pregnancy through the interview date. Most mothers received education or support from a medical professional prenatally, at the hospital, or during the child’s infancy, but most also reported receiving no education or support at one or more of these stages. Mothers often felt provided education and support was cursory and inadequate. Some mothers received misinformation or encountered practitioners who were hostile or indifferent to breastfeeding. Mothers were not given referrals to available resources, even after reporting breastfeeding challenges. Mothers received inconsistent messages regarding breastfeeding within and across institutions. Mothers need consistent, sustained information and support to develop and meet personal breastfeeding goals. Medical professionals should follow guidelines issued by their own organizations as well as those from the US Surgeon General, Healthy People 2020, and the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Prenatal, postnatal, and pediatric care providers should coordinate to provide consistent messages and practices within and across sites of care.
KeywordsBreastfeeding Prenatal Post-partum Pediatrics Qualitative
The authors gratefully acknowledge Maryland WIC Program director, Jacqueline Marlette-Boras; former program director, Kathleen Knolhoff; the Peer Counselors and staff of the Maryland WIC Program; Stephanie Saylor for her editorial assistance; and our office administrator Linda Kelly.
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