Breastfeeding affords numerous benefits for mothers, infants, families, and communities. Rates of breastfeeding are disproportionately low in rural Appalachia. We will describe how use of the AAP CATCH Grant process aided in building a community breastfeeding coalition, conducting a breastfeeding support needs assessment, and developing interventions to promote and support breastfeeding in the region.
In 2005, members of a multidisciplinary regional breastfeeding coalition in Northeast Tennessee wrote and received an AAP CATCH Planning Grant. Funds supported regular meetings of the coalition, a needs assessment consisting of surveys and focus groups conducted with patients and healthcare providers in the region during 2007-2008, and dissemination of the group's findings and recommendations. Patient participants were recruited from three health departments and one Pediatric clinic in the region. Provider participants were recruited from three regional professional conferences. Surveys were entered into and analyzed using SPSS 17. Recordings of focus groups were transcribed and transcripts were reviewed to identify themes.
19 pregnant women in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy, 38 new mothers, and 58 healthcare providers completed a survey. Fifty five percent of new mothers reported ever having breastfed their baby. Thirty seven percent of healthcare providers identified Pediatrics, 21% Obstetrics and Gynecology, and 37% Family Medicine/Primary Care as their primary specialty. 52.6% and 81.6% of pregnant women and new mothers, respectively, reported that their healthcare provider had encouraged breastfeeding. Patients described that their healthcare providers discussed little about breastfeeding other than its benefits. Eighty-four percent of providers reported usually recommending exclusive breastfeeding during the first month of life. Only forty-eight percent of providers considered their advice on breastfeeding to be very important to mothers. Twenty-five percent of providers felt that exclusive breastfeeding for the first sixth months of life is unrealistic for many of their patients. The most commonly cited barrier by providers was that mothers had already decided not to breastfeed before they encountered them. Lack of time and lack of referral resources were other common barriers reported. Providers expressed the lowest levels of confidence in their own skills in evaluating latch, resolving problems of low milk production and breast tenderness, and knowing what referral services exist.
Patients in this sample described receiving little information about breastfeeding from their healthcare provider. Many health care providers in this region do not recognize the importance of their advice on breastfeeding and feel that breastfeeding is unrealistic for many of their patients. The use of study results by a community breastfeeding coalition to increase community awareness of the importance of breastfeeding promotion and support and to address provider concerns about barriers and educational needs will be discussed.