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Physicians do not inform new mothers regarding optimal infant care practices

Posted:  Thursday, July 30, 2015

New mothers keep an eye out! A recent study has reported that many new mothers were not advised by their physicians regarding optimal infant care practices such as sleep position, breastfeeding, immunisation and pacifier use.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, a study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) evaluated the attitudes and factors affecting infant care practices of 1031 new mothers (with infants aged 2–6months). Questionnaires were used to check if the mothers received infant care advice from the infant’s physician, nurses at birth hospitals, family members and news media. The study also aimed to find out if the advice received by new mothers was consistent with current recommendations.

The findings showed that 10–15% of physician’s advice on breastfeeding and use of pacifiers did not match the recommendations. Likewise, a little over 25% of the physician’s advice on sleeping position or location was inconsistent with the recommendations.

Around 85% of the women who received physician’s advise inconsistent with recommendations, were asked to position infants on their back or side while asleep [side position increases the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)]. Similarly, more than 32% of mothers received family advice inconsistent with the recommendations; half of them were advised to position infants on their stomach while sleeping (associated with the highest risk for SIDS).

Marian Willinger, PhD, of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch at NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD said, "Earlier studies have shown that new mothers listen to their physicians. This survey shows that physicians have an opportunity to provide new mothers with much-needed advice on how to improve infant health and even save infant lives."

The authors concluded that doctors and others fail to advise mothers on proper infant care practices because they may not be aware of the current recommendations, may disagree with them, or may be avoiding long conversations due to hectic schedules.

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