Breastfeeding: Qualitative research
Summary of findings
- Breastfeeding initiation rates for Doncaster PCT are amongst the lowest in the country.
- Lower incidence and prevalence of breastfeeding is associated with:
- Birth order – prevalence is higher among mothers of first babies
- Routine or manual occupations
- Mothers leaving full time education at age 16 or younger
- Mothers aged 20 or younger
- Women from white ethnic groups
- The key influences on whether a woman tries to breastfeed are a family history of breastfeeding; a general belief that breastfeeding is ‘best for the baby’; and a lack of discouragement from her partner.
- The main barriers to breastfeeding are the view that it will be inconvenient; lack of facilities for feeding in public; embarrassment; fear of disapproval if feeding in public; fear of pain; and worries about the baby getting enough milk.
- The key barriers to establishing breastfeeding are a lack of knowledge amongst new mothers; a lack of support from midwives at the hospital; and a lack of appreciation of how difficult it can be to breastfeed successfully.
- The main barriers to continuing to feed once a new mother gets home are difficulties in devoting the time to feeding and finding places to feed outside the home; embarrassment and lack of support from the community; and physical issues such as painful breasts and mastitis.
- A hospital’s early discharge policy coupled with the requirement that the baby should be properly fed before that point, can conspire to undermine efforts to breastfeed.
The research specifies target characteristics, including pregnant women who have had more than one baby, left full time education at 16 or younger, are aged 20 or younger etc.
Recommendations for service development and improvement are made, including the introduction of a pro-active peer mentoring scheme to supplement the support of a midwife or health visitor, better information on the difficulties of breastfeeding at the ante-natal stage, etc.
Recommendations are also made for marketing and communications with the aim of increasing the acceptability of breastfeeding in Doncaster – making it fashionable, the norm, important and valued. These include suggestions for marketing messages, activity, communication routes and PR.
- Identify key target population in Doncaster who are less likely to breastfeed.
- Identify the barriers to breastfeeding, and explore how these could be reduced. Specifically, to explore:
- the environmental and cultural issues around breastfeeding in Doncaster, including the influence of family and friends
- the sources of information and education about breastfeeding and what the most effective forms of communication are
- the experiences of the practical help and support offered to new mothers by the NHS and other agencies
- the reactions to some new ideas aimed at increasing breastfeeding rates
Breastfeeding helps give babies the best start in life and has a major role to play in improving the health of infants in childhood and reducing admissions to hospital in the first year of life.
Breastfeeding rates in the UK are amongst the lowest in Europe and those that do start discontinue very quickly. The current government target is to increase breastfeeding initiation rates by 2 percentage points a year.
In 2006/7, 3,691 women gave birth in Doncaster of which 1,767, 47.9 % breastfed. This is one of the lowest breastfeeding initiation rates in the country.
Doncaster PCT want to create a culture where breastfeeding is valued and mothers feel empowered to make an informed choice about how they feed their baby and receive support whatever decision they make. In addition, they want to increase awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and improve the support given to new mothers.
Research to identify key target populations in Doncaster who are less likely to breastfeed, identify barriers to breastfeeding, and explore how these barriers might be reduced.
- Analysis of national and local data to identify key target populations in Doncaster who are less likely to breastfeed.
- Focus groups with new mothers to identify the barriers to breastfeeding and explore how they could be reduced. Specifically:
- 3x 90 minute focus groups:
- 1 with women who did not breastfeed
- 1 with women who breastfed for less than 4 months
- 1 with women who breastfed for at least 3 months
Data collection methodology
Sample size for the qualitative research not specified beyond ‘three…focus groups’