Background: Little information is available about the degree to which obstetricians promote breastfeeding through patient care practices and educational activities. The purpose of this study was to determine the attitudes, practices, and recommendations of obstetricians regarding infant feeding selection.
Methods: A written survey was mailed to 148 obstetrician/gynecologists in Monroe County, New York (78% response rate, n = 116).
Results: Of the 104 physicians in active obstetric practice, 86 percent conducted prenatal discussions about infant feeding with patients, 80 percent recommended breastfeeding, and 68 percent were commonly contacted postpartum by patients to address breastfeeding questions. Overall, 57 percent routinely incorporated these breastfeeding supportive practices into their prenatal and postpartum patient care. Attitudes about obstetric responsibility for infant feeding counselings and about the importance of counseling independently predicted the provision of these services. Infant feeding information was given to patients by 98 percent of obstetricians; 75 percent used written and 39 percent used videotaped materials. Formula company-produced infant feeding literature (41%), pregnancy literature (57%), and free formula offers (61%) were commonly used. Of those surveyed, 58 percent lacked training and 22 percent reported inadequate training in infant nutrition.
Conclusions: Although most obstetricians in Monroe County provide infant feeding education and recommend breastfeeding, most report that their training about infant nutrition is inadequate, and they distribute infant formula company materials and offers to patients. Such discrepancies in patient care are inconsistent with promoting breastfeeding as optimal infant nutrition.