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Health SA Gesondheid (Online)

On-line version ISSN 2071-9736
Print version ISSN 1025-9848


DU PLESSIS, Diana. Breastfeeding: Mothers and health practitioners in the context of private medical care in Gauteng. Health SA Gesondheid (Online) [online]. 2009, vol.14, n.1, pp.39-48. ISSN 2071-9736.

Despite the well-documented health benefits of breastfeeding and recommendations by the Department of Health for women to exclusively breastfeed for approximately the first six months of life and continuation beyond one year, a large percentage of South African women do not breastfeed their infants, or only do so for a short period of time. No national South African statistics are available but figures emerging from the attendance of mothers at a baby clinic on the West Rand in Gauteng indicated the following: 64% of the mothers breastfeed up to six weeks, after which the figure rapidly declines to less than 20% at three months (Truter 2007). Several studies have assessed the attitudes of health care personnel towards breastfeeding, but little is known of the type of information given to breastfeeding mothers by private medical practitioners who are the frontline of contact with clients and who may convey information that either promotes or discourages breastfeeding. The following question was thus formulated: With regard to breastfeeding, what are the constraints to breastfeeding in private practice? Therefore, in order to understand the constraints to breastfeeding, the purpose of this study was to assess the breastfeeding information given to pregnant women by health professionals in private practice. The specific objectives of the study were to determine the breastfeeding recommendations made by private health professionals during pregnancy, to describe the management of breastfeeding in the consulting rooms of private medical practitioners, and to describe women's experiences of breastfeeding in private hospitals. In Phase 1 of the study the population comprised all mothers who attended a support group for new mothers at a private post-natal clinic In Phase 2 the population comprised all mothers who attended a community baby clinic or support group. The sample consisted of all primigravidae who breastfed or attempted to breastfeed in the first six weeks. Purposive convenient sampling, as described by Babbie and Mouton (2002:166), was used in both phases of the study. All participants chose a gynaecologist as the primary care giver and delivered in various private hospitals in Johannesburg. Data were collected by means of an anonymous questionnaire, compiled from national and international literature, as well as personal interviews. Data from the questionnaires were analysed by hand. Descriptive statistics were applied. The interviews were analysed according to the descriptive analysis suggested by Tesch (in Creswell, 1994:155). Themes that emerged were clustered and coded. A co-coder, experienced in the field of qualitative research, assisted with the analysis of the transcripts of the interviews. A literature control was conducted to validate the findings. Ethical considerations were based on the DENOSA Ethical Standards for Nurse Researchers (1998:2.3.2-2.3.4). Themes and sub-themes were identified.

Keywords : breastfeeding; Gauteng province; South Africa; paediatric nutrition; postnatal care.

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