Summer Salad

January/February 2009

FocusSummer Salad

Breastfeeding knowledge

The experiences of Australian general practice registrars

Volume 38, No.1, January/February 2009 Pages 26-29

Wendy Brodribb

Anthony B Fallon

Claire Jackson

Desley Hegney


Breastfeeding is an important public health measure. General practitioners are in an ideal position to provide information, support and encouragement for breastfeeding women but require up to date knowledge and skills. Overseas studies indicate that doctors often have significant breastfeeding knowledge deficits. This article examines the sources of information about breastfeeding available to general practice registrars and the perceived adequacy of this knowledge for their work in the general practice setting.


A 90 item questionnaire covering demographics, breastfeeding training, knowledge, attitudes, confidence and effectiveness was distributed to 483 subsequent term general practice registrars between February and May 2007 via regional training providers.


The questionnaire response rate was 33%. The most common avenue for learning about breastfeeding was at medical school (49.4%), while the most useful source of breastfeeding information was personal breastfeeding experience for registrars who were parents (62.2%), and during hospital terms after graduation for registrars who were not parents (35.5%). Only 23.6% of the participants thought they did not require further breastfeeding information.


Breastfeeding training opportunities in medical schools and postgraduation are limited. There is a clear need for a breastfeeding training program for both general practice registrars and GPs.

In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council and The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommend breastfeeding for at least the first 12 months of an infant’s life,1,2 based on the known disadvantages of not breastfeeding for the mother and child.3,4 A Victorian study found that the mean number of visits by mothers to a general practitioner in the first 6 months postpartum was 7.7.5 General practitioners are therefore in an ideal position to assist and support breastfeeding women.

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