Attitudes to infant feeding decision-making – a mixed-methods study of Australian medical students and GP registrars

The Australian Breastfeeding Association is delighted to announce Dr Wendy Brodribb along with her supervisors Dr Tony Fallon, Dr Claire Jackson and Dr Desley Hegney, as the winner of the Mary Paton Research Award for 2009 for her paper Attitudes to infant feeding decision-making – a mixed-methods study of Australian medical students and GP registrars.

Dr Wendy Brodribb completed her medical degree in 1977 and has worked in the areas of general practice and women’s health. She became interested in lactation after the birth of her first child in 1980 and became an Australian Breastfeeding Association breastfeeding counsellor in 1983, and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in 1990. She edited the text Breastfeeding Management and has written a number of other papers on breastfeeding topics as well as presenting at conferences and breastfeeding courses. She lives and works in Queensland. Recently Dr Brodribb completed a PhD at the University of Queensland, part of which includes her research for this particular study.

In her winning paper, Dr Brodribb acknowledges that breastfeeding is an important public health issue, and considers that whilst medical practitioners can have a significant impact on breastfeeding initiation and duration, there are few studies investigating their views regarding women’s infant feeding decisions. Dr Brodribb’s mixed-methods study employed qualitative (focus groups and interviews) and quantitative (questionnaire) data collection techniques to investigate the attitudes and views of Australian medical students and GP registrars about infant feeding decision-making.

Three approaches to infant feeding decisions: ‘the moral choice’ (women were expected to breastfeed); ‘the free choice’ (doctors should not influence a woman’s decision); and ‘the equal choice’ (the outcome of the decision was unimportant) were evident. Participants were uncertain about differences between formula-feeding and breastfeeding outcomes, and there was some concern that advising a mother to breastfeed may lead to maternal feelings of guilt and failure. These findings, the first in an Australian setting, provide a foundation on which to base further educational interventions for medical practitioners.

The Mary Paton Research Award for the best original paper on breastfeeding is a bi-annual event, attracting a $2,000 prize, kindly sponsored by the College of Lactation Consultants Victoria .

The award was established to honour Mary Paton the founder of the Australian Breastfeeding Association formerly the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia

Congratulations once again to Dr Wendy Brodribb, on the excellence of her research. We look forward to publishing this study for Breastfeeding Review in March 2010!

Access Dr Brodribb’s paper here