Objective. Physician support for breast-feedings mothers has been shown to improve breast-feeding rates, but no evaluation of the adequacy of physicians' breast-feeding-related training has been conducted. This study was designed to assess pediatricians' knowledge, attitudes, training, and activities related to breast-feeding promotion.
Methods. Surveys were mailed to a national random sample of pediatric residents (n = 999) and practitioners (n = 610) who were board certified within the previous 3 to 5 years.
Results. Response rates were 74% for residents and 69% for practitioners. Although more than 90% of respondents agreed that pediatricians should be involved in breast-feeding promotion, their clinical knowledge and experience did not suggest a high degree of competency. For example, practitioners were only slightly more aware of breast-feeding's protective effect against otitis media (71% vs 60%), and more than one quarter of both groups did not agree that exclusive breast-feeding is the most beneficial form of infant nutrition. Clinical advice often included inappropriate recommendations for breast-feeding termination or formula supplementation; only 64% of practitioners and 52% of residents knew that supplementing during the first few weeks of life may cause breast-feeding failure. For both groups, prior personal breast-feeding experience (ie, respondent or spouse had breast-fed an infant for 2 or more weeks) was a major determinant of improved clinical knowledge, more frequent activity, and greater self-confidence and perceived effectiveness in the area of breast-feeding promotion. Residents reported that the breast-feeding instruction provided during training was primarily in lecture format, with limited clinical opportunities to practice skills needed to assist breast-feeding mothers. Reflecting on their own training, more than 70% of practitioners recommended that more time be devoted to direct patient interaction and practice of counseling and problem-solving skills.
Conclusions. These results indicate that residency training does not adequately prepare pediatricians for their role in breast-feeding promotion. Improvements in residency training and innovative continuing education programs should be implemented to help pediatricians meet the needs of their breast-feeding patients.
- Received August 12, 1994.
- Accepted December 12, 1994.
- Copyright © 1995 by the American Academy of Pediatrics