13.5. Evidence based knowledge for development of breastfeeding counseling

Public examination of a doctoral dissertation in the field of nursing science

Doctoral candidate: Master of Health Sciences Sari Laanterä

Time and venue: 13.5.2011 at 12 noon, Medistudia building, Auditorium ML1, Kuopio Campus  

Expectant parents need breastfeeding counseling, not only correct information, but also reinforcement about positive breastfeeding attitudes and confidence that they will be successful in breastfeeding the new baby. The expectant parents showed uncertainty in their knowledge about ways to increase lactation and when supplementary feedings need to be given. In particular, parents expecting their first child consider it important that both parents should be able to participate in baby’s feeding. These issues were highlighted in the doctoral dissertation of Sari Laanterä (Master of Health Sciences) which examined the best ways to improve breastfeeding counseling. Previously, little has been known about the breastfeeding knowledge of the expectant parents in Finland.

In maternity health care, breastfeeding counseling is a central issue in promoting both the mother’s and child’s health. On the basis of this study, some barriers were identified in the counseling provided. Health professionals have gaps in their breastfeeding knowledge, deficits in resources and counseling skills. In addition, some health professionals can have even negative attitudes towards breastfeeding.

Parents regard breastfeeding as important

In phase 1 of the study, evidence based knowledge was gathered about the barriers relating to breastfeeding counseling from the viewpoint of health professionals by scrutinizing international literature on this topic. The data consisted of 40 scientific articles.

In phase 2, a scale was developed and this was used to assess the breastfeeding knowledge of the parents, the breastfeeding attitudes and the mothers’ confidence toward breastfeeding. The data of the empirical study was collected at eight Finnish maternity health care clinics in southeast Finland in 2009 by using this computer-based assessment method. A total of 172 expectant parents participated in the study.

The pregnant women with their spouses answered correctly to about two thirds of the knowledge based questions. The most common gaps in the knowledge concerned the ways of increasing lactation and when the supplementary feedings need to be started. Parents who already have children needed to be given information about breastfeeding although they had more knowledge than parents who were expecting their first child.

The questions concerning breastfeeding attitudes indicated that the parents regarded breastfeeding as important. One new finding was that especially the parents expecting their first child regarded it as important that both parents would be able to participate in the infant’s feeding. The mothers’ confidence enhanced with parity, or as her breastfeeding knowledge increased and also if she had a positive attitude towards breastfeeding. In this study certain groups of mothers and parents were identified who are in real need of counseling and on whom efforts should be focussed.

Identifying ways to improve the counseling provided

According to the results, the way that breastfeeding counseling is conducted should be improved and families need to be offered more support to encourage breastfeeding. It is important to take the family’s domestic situation into account when new types of psychosocial support are being developed.

Counseling needs to be focused especially on parents expecting their first child and to young, poorly educated individuals as well as to those parents who have gaps in their knowledge and negative attitudes and anxieties about breastfeeding. Since men want to participate in the care of their child, the fathers-to-be need to receive counseling and advice about how to support the mother in infant feeding. The pregnant women need to be given counseling on the physiology of breastfeeding and how any possible problems relating to breastfeeding can be overcome or even avoided. This study indicated that there should be a more systematic implementation of the breastfeeding recommendations.

The doctoral dissertation of Master of Health Sciences Sari Laanterä, entitled Breastfeeding Counseling in Maternity Health Care will be examined in the Faculty of Health Sciences. The opponent in the public examination will be Docent Marja Kaunonen from the University of Tampere and the custos will be Professor Anna-Maija Pietilä from the University of Eastern Finland.

Photo available for download at http://www.uef.fi/vaitoskuvat

Contact: Sari Laanterä, GSM + 358 50 5721516, laantera@student.uef.fi

Publishing year: 2011

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