Breastfeeding is good for moms and babies. If you’re a new mom, your doctor likely encouraged you to breastfeed. And no wonder: breast milk is best for your baby nutritionally, is easier to digest, promotes healthy growth and boosts your baby’s immune system, even lowering your baby’s chances for disease. Plus it’s easier than heating bottles and costs nothing. Breastfeeding even decreases a mom’s risk of cancer.
Unfortunately, fewer moms in urban (city living) Milwaukee, Wisconsin, breastfeed compared to other areas in the state and nation. Understanding the barriers to breastfeeding is the first step to getting more new moms to feed their babies healthy breast milk. That’s why researchers recently surveyed expectant mothers planning to give birth at Milwaukee’s only downtown hospital (Aurora Sinai Medical Center) to learn their thoughts on breastfeeding.
The official study, “Application of the Breastfeeding Personal Efficacy Beliefs Inventory and Acknowledgement of Barriers for Improving Breastfeeding Initiation Rates in an Urban Population,” was recently published in Aurora’s Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews. You can read the study results here.
The 36-question survey was distributed to 271 pregnant women at their prenatal visits. Questions measured demographics as well as the woman’s confidence in breastfeeding – from 0 percent (cannot do) to 50 percent (might do) to 100 percent (certain can do). Participation was completely voluntary and responses were anonymous. Eighty-nine percent of women – 240 in total – returned the survey.
Even though 74 percent of pregnant moms indicated they were confident about breastfeeding, 62 percent were breastfeeding when they left the hospital. Only 55 percent of mothers were exclusively breastfeeding at discharge (in other words, not feeding with any other liquids or using a bottle). Why aren’t these moms breastfeeding? The barriers appear to be lack of prior exposure and nonexclusive breastfeeding practices. The rate of exclusive breastfeeding was lower in black women and for those who live in Milwaukee’s central city.
The lower breastfeeding rate at discharge – compared to the higher self-reported level of confidence – suggests more should be done at clinics and the hospital to encourage breastfeeding. This may include patient-centered tools, such as peer counselors, breastfeeding class vouchers and decreased formula use in the hospital.
Because of the study’s findings, the hope is that more mothers, particularly those who live in urban settings, will breastfeed their babies for at least the first 6 months.