Promoting and Supporting Breast-Feeding

Jay Moreland, Jennifer Coombs

Am Fam Physician 2000;61:2093-100,2103-4.

The family physician can significantly influence a mother’s decision to breast-feed. Prenatal support, hospital management and subsequent pediatric and maternal visits are all-important components of breast-feeding promotion. Prenatal encouragement increases breast-feeding rates and identifies potential problem areas. Hospital practices should focus on rooming-in, early and frequent breast-feeding, skilled support and avoidance of artificial nipples, pacifiers and formula. Infant follow-up should be two to four days postdischarge, with liberal use of referral and support groups, including lactation consultants and peer counselors.

Breast-feeding is the best form of nutrition for infants.1,2 Family physicians can have a significant impact on the initiation and maintenance of breast-feeding, if they have sufficient knowledge of breast-feeding benefits and the necessary clinical management skills or habits.3 In one recent study,4 only 25 percent of mothers reported discussing breast-feeding with health care professionals at the two-week visit. This same study demonstrated that encouragement by health professionals could have a significant impact on breast-feeding rates. Unfortunately, family physicians are no better than their peers in other specialties in promoting breast-feeding.5 In this article, we present strategies for the family physician to promote and support breast-feeding.

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