Survey of lactation instructors on folk traditions in breastfeeding

Breastfeed Med. 2012 Aug;7:230-3. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2011.0054. Epub 2012 Mar 16.


Objective: Women who choose to breastfeed are given advice from a variety of sources: some well researched and empirical, and some folkloric and rooted in oral tradition. This study aims to identify which folk practices are being discussed in the breastfeeding community and which have been adopted by lactation educators.

Materials and methods: An Internet-based questionnaire was sent to certified lactation consultants affiliated with U.S. medical centers identified through an online database. Participants were asked to provide demographic information as well as open responses about the types of recommendations they had heard and that they provide to clients.

Results: One hundred twenty-four responses were received out of 293 surveys sent (42% response rate). Eighty-six lactation consultants (69%) reported hearing of folk remedies, and 80 (65%) recommended at least one of these methods. The most commonly recommended remedies fell into the categories of promoting lactation (58%), reducing pain (41%), and avoiding substances with adverse infant effects (19%). Specifically, the most common folk traditions recommended were fenugreek (57 responses) and blessed thistle (28 responses) for lactation and cabbage leaves (36 responses) for pain relief. Practitioners who made such recommendations were similar to those who did not in age, education, length of career, and location.

Conclusions: Folk traditions are commonly communicated in breastfeeding education. The fact that experienced practitioners are promoting the use of traditional methods suggests that further research is necessary to prove the efficacy of methods whose success previously has been anecdotal.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding* / methods
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys*
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Internet
  • Lactation*
  • Medicine, Traditional / methods*
  • Ohio / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology