Dietitians supporting breastfeeding: a survey of education, skills, knowledge and attitudes



Breastfeeding rates in Ireland are among the lowest in the world; thus, it is important to understand what knowledge and skills exist and what are the education needs of dietitians. There has been no Irish research on dietitians’ perception of their role in promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding.


The aim of this study was to explore the breastfeeding-related education that dietitians participated in, their breastfeeding-related skills, knowledge and attitudes towards breastfeeding.


An e-survey was conducted among members of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute.


Fifty-nine percent of the 181 respondents received education or training on breastfeeding since qualifying with a trend of more training time on general breastfeeding knowledge and less time on clinical issues. There were lower confidence in skills, and role expectations related to clinical practice and clinical skills were perceived as required by only a few dietitians in specific roles. Personal breastfeeding experience was associated with greater confidence in their breastfeeding-related skills and a greater likiehood of reporting positive attitudes. The main source of information about breastfeeding was own reading or experience. Most respondents (64%) felt that their practice would benefit from additional training. The most frequently reported barriers to providing breastfeeding-related care were “I lack the skill”, “I lack the confidence”, and “I lack the knowledge to provide assistance with breastfeeding”.


Further examination of the role of the dietitian and the establishment of expected competencies would provide a clear framework for future training and education of dietitians towards increasing breastfeeding prevalence in Ireland.

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Fig. 1


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    Available on request from authors

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    See Supplementary Materials for table of results of subgroup analysis.

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    See Supplementary Materials for table of results of subgroup analysis.

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    See Supplementary Materials for table of results of subgroup analysis.

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    Personal communication, INDI office



Continuing professional development


Health service executive, which is responsible for the provision of health and personal social services with public funds


International Board Certified Lactation Consultant


Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, the national organisation in Ireland for dietetic professionals


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The authors would like to acknowledge the dietitians who assisted in the piloting of the questions and the respondents in the survey and assistance of the INDI in disseminating the survey.

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Correspondence to Genevieve E. Becker.

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Becker, G.E., Quinlan, G., Ward, F. et al. Dietitians supporting breastfeeding: a survey of education, skills, knowledge and attitudes. Ir J Med Sci (2020).

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  • Breastfeeding
  • CPD
  • Dietitian
  • Education
  • Ireland
  • Survey