Breastfeeding Medicine

Physicians blogging about breastfeeding

Caring about breastfeeding in prenatal care

with 2 comments

In an effort to ensure the health of both mother and baby, most pregnant women make multiple visits for prenatal care. Few behaviors impact health outcomes for mother and baby more than breastfeeding, so one would expect these prenatal care visits to include extensive breastfeeding guidance.

In a recent study, researchers audiorecorded 172 first visits for prenatal care at a large academic medical center to assess the nature of breastfeeding discussions.
Overall, less than a third of visits (to 36 obstetric residents, 6 midwives, and 5 nurse practitioners) included any discussion of breastfeeding, and only 2% included an explicit recommendation that breastfeeding is superior to artificial feeding. Midwives were more likely to discuss breastfeeding, but only 42% (vs. 10% of obstetricians) assessed pregnant women’s prior exposure to or experience with breastfeeding.

As most mothers make decisions about how they are going to feed their infants before their babies are born, prenatal care providers have the potential to play an important role in educating women about the maternal and infant health risks associated with not breastfeeding. Unfortunately, at least at this hospital, few women seem to be getting the message that their prenatal clinician actually cares about breastfeeding. Efforts are needed to make sure that training programs across the country effectively convince prenatal care providers to care about infant feeding.

Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, MD, MS is a clinician and researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, Departments of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive sciences.

Posts on this blog reflect the opinions of individual ABM members, not the organization as a whole.

Written by EBS, MD, MS

December 2, 2013 at 11:10 am

2 Responses

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  1. This is really interesting (I’m sharing it via my social media channels). Curious what the stats are like in discussing BFing at prenatal visits further along in the pregnancy. Speaking from my own personal experience when I was pregnant, the first visit (as was evaluated in the study) was so overwhelming (emotion of confirming the pregnancy, seeing the first ultrasound, getting tons of info about pregnancy), I’m not sure I would have absorbed breastfeeding info then. We weren’t talking about delivery at my first visit either (or if we did, I really don’t recall that at all – point made!). That came later. I support getting women as much info as possible; just curious whether docs and other providers were more assertive with the BFing information in later prenatal visits?


    December 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm

  2. I was so blessed. At my first visit, my OB said “doctors don’t deliver babies, women do.” He handed me his required reading list (the first 2 books being Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskins and Immaculate Deception by Suzanne Arms). He told me he expected me to attend childbirth classes and read a breastfeeding book or take a class.

    Changed my life.

    Nancee McPherson

    December 9, 2013 at 4:37 am

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