Pediatricians’ recommendations and practices for breastfeeding have become more closely aligned with American Academy of Pediatrics policy since 1995, but attitudes toward breastfeeding show cause for concern, according to a study.
The percentage of surveyed pediatricians who advise exclusive breastfeeding during the first month rose from 66% in 1995 to 75% in 2014 (P less than .05), reported Lori Feldman-Winter, MD, MPH, of Rowan University, Camden, N.J., and her coauthors (Pediatrics. 2017. doi: 10.1542/peds.2017-1229).
Physicians also were less likely to recommend formula supplementation (12% in 1995; 4.5% in 2014; P less than .05).
Data were collected from three AAP Periodic Surveys of Fellows: PS #89 for 2014 (620 respondents), PS #57 for 2004 (675 respondents), and PS #30 for 1995 (832 respondents).
In addition, pediatricians in 2014 were significantly more likely to report that their affiliated hospitals had applied to be a baby-friendly hospital (56%), compared with results for 1995 (12%) and 2004 (22%) (P less than .05), the investigators said. The physicians also were more likely to report that their practices were more in line with the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” policy.
Despite this general trend toward AAP recommendation–compliant practices, many pediatricians doubt the likelihood of breastfeeding success. Although in 1995, 70% of pediatricians reported that almost any mother can be successful at breastfeeding if she keeps trying, only 56% reported the same in 2014 (P less than .05), Dr. Feldman-Winter and her coauthors said. Similarly, only 50% reported that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the difficulties in 2014, compared with 70% in 1995 (P less than .05). This may be in part because younger pediatricians reported less confidence in managing common breastfeeding problems and being able to adequately address parents’ questions about breastfeeding; there was a statistically significant difference between pediatricians younger than 45 years and those 45 years and older (P less than .01).
“Pediatricians have demonstrated a modest decline in attitudes about the potential for breastfeeding success,” the investigators wrote. “Lack of resident support for breastfeeding is apparent among many programs and may set the stage for attitudes about breastfeeding for years to come. There are continued opportunities to enhance training in breastfeeding and participate in breastfeeding management and support.”
The study was funded by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, and Department of Health and Human Services. None of the authors reported any financial disclosures.