Breastfeeding Knowledge, Confidence, Beliefs, and Attitudes of Canadian Physicians

J Hum Lact. 2014 Aug;30(3):298-309. doi: 10.1177/0890334414535507. Epub 2014 Jun 11.


Background: Physicians' attitudes and recommendations directly affect breastfeeding duration. Yet, studies in many nations have shown that physicians lack the skills to offer proper guidance to breastfeeding mothers.

Objective: This study aims to assess breastfeeding knowledge, confidence, beliefs, and attitudes of Canadian physicians.

Methods: A breastfeeding questionnaire was developed and piloted prior to study enrollment. These questionnaires were sent to 1429 pediatricians (PED), 1329 family physicians (FP), and final-year pediatric and final-year family medicine residents (PR and FMR).

Results: The analysis included 397 PED, 322 FP, 17 PR, and 44 FMR who completed the questionnaire. Mean overall correct knowledge score was 67.8% for PED, 64.3% for FP, 72.7% for PR, and 66.8% for FMR. Two hundred eighty-five PED (74.2%), 228 FP (73.1%), 7 PR (41.2%), and 21 FMR (53.8%) felt confident with their breastfeeding counseling skills. Less than half (49.6% of PED and 45.4% of FP) believed that evaluating breastfeeding was a primary care physician's responsibility, and few PED or FP (5.1% and 11.3%) routinely observed breastfeeding in mother-infant pairs.

Conclusion: Several areas of potential deficits were identified in Canadian physicians' breastfeeding knowledge. Physicians would benefit from greater education and support, to optimize care of infants and their mothers.

Keywords: attitudes; beliefs; breastfeeding; confidence; education; humans; infant; knowledge; medicine; newborn; physician’s role; practice.