Research Article

Health service support of breast feeding--are we practising what we preach?

BMJ 1992; 305 doi: (Published 01 August 1992) Cite this as: BMJ 1992;305:285
  1. S. Beeken,
  2. T. Waterston
  1. Community Child Health, Newcastle General Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne.


    OBJECTIVE--To ascertain the attitudes of health professionals and breast feeding mothers to breast feeding and their views on current practice. DESIGN--Questionnaire to all midwives and health visitors and to breast feeding mothers in Newcastle upon Tyne. SETTING--Maternity units and community in Newcastle upon Tyne. SUBJECTS--127 hospital midwives, 23 community midwives, 63 health visitors, and 50 first time breast feeding mothers. RESULTS--Optimum practice guidelines were not followed. 30 (60%) mothers said they were separated from their babies on the first night after birth. 82 (42%) professionals said that breast fed babies were frequently given water to drink. 28 (56%) babies in the mothers survey had received food or water other than breast milk; 19 of these had been given water. Professionals expressed mainly positive attitudes towards breast feeding in general but less positive attitudes to specific issues such as the beneficial effects on child health and the value of voluntary organisations in breast feeding promotion and management. CONCLUSIONS--Although many health workers are in favour of breast feeding there is conflict among the professions working most closely with breast feeding mothers. Good breast feeding support requires closer attention to monitoring hospital practices and continued training on good lactation management.