New mothers report no physician advice on infant care

New mothers report no physician advice on infant care
Aug 20, 2015

Many new mothers are not receiving advice from their physicians on aspects of infant care such as sleep position, breastfeeding, immunization, and pacifier use, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The study included surveying a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 new mothers. [1] Researchers enrolled new mothers at delivery from 32 hospitals around the country, with 1031 women eventually taking part in the study. The authors asked the women to complete questionnaires when the infant was between two and six months old on advice they received from their infant’s doctor, birth hospital nurses, their family members and the media. In addition to finding out whether or not these sources had provided sufficient advice on infant care, the questionnaires sought to determine whether the advice was consistent with the recommendations of practitioner groups.

Highlights of the study include:

    • Roughly 20 per cent of mothers said they did not receive advice from their doctors regarding current recommendations on breastfeeding or on placing infants to sleep on their backs — a practice long proven to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
    • More than 50 per cent of mothers reported they received no advice on where their infants should sleep. Room-sharing with parents — but not bed-sharing — is the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended practice for safe infant sleep.
    • African American women, Hispanic women, and first-time mothers were more likely to receive advice from their physicians than were white women and mothers of two or more children.

“As a physician, these findings made me stop and really think about how we communicate important information to new parents,” said the study’s first author, Staci R. Eisenberg, M.D., a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center. “We may need to be clearer and more specific in telling new mothers about safe sleep recommendations. From a public health perspective, there is a real opportunity to engage families and the media to promote infant health.”

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