The support of peer groups and clinicians is critical to the development of effective breastfeeding programs, according to recent University of Georgia research.
[Photo: Dr. Rachel Powell]
A qualitative study of 21 mothers in the Athens-Clarke County area determined that role models for successful breastfeeding help positively shape the outcomes of mothers of infants.
“Mothers who received that support are more likely to be successful at breastfeeding,” said study co-author Dr. Alex Anderson, 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 motivation for the research, published in Journal of Neonatal Nursing, was to examine different forms of support that were helpful to breastfeeding mothers, said the study’s lead author Dr. Rachel Powell, a research assistant in the College of Public Health.
“We wanted to identify barriers to recognize areas of improvement to ensure breastfeeding women are well supported,” she said. “Breastfeeding has significant health benefits not just for the baby, but for the mother as well.”
Studies have shown that infants who are breastfed are less likely to develop diarrheal diseases, ear infections and asthma, and that breastfeeding can protect the mother against breast, cervical and endometrial cancer.
As part of the study, researchers conducted interviews with mothers of infants from the Athens community, including 12 from the Athens branch of Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, which serves low-income mothers, and nine from Full Bloom Pregnancy and Early Parenting Center, which tends to serve middle income, highly educated mothers, Dr. Anderson said.
Roughly 75 percent of the mothers who participated in the study reported negative or no support from their clinician or hospital staff regarding breastfeeding.
“Clinicians should be targeted to educate [mother’s] about breastfeeding support,” he said. “I also think that to save the clinicians some time, (hospitals and communities should) run a peer counselor program and refer patients to such programs for support.”