Breastfeeding education provided to university health students: Is it enough to support breastfeeding women?

Caitlin Merz, Alison Shield, Alyson McClatchey

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Introduction: The improved health outcomes of breastfeeding for mother and infant are well established, however, only 14% of Australian infants are exclusively breastfed to the WHO recommended six months. Studies indicate that women place significant value on the breastfeeding advice provided by health professionals, highlighting the need for their knowledge and education to be sufficient. Despite this, many health professionals report a lack of knowledge and confidence in their understanding of breastfeeding due to insufficient education and training. Aims: To investigate the quantity, delivery mode and content of breastfeeding education that is provided to university health profession students; specifically, those studying nursing, medicine, pharmacy, and midwifery. Methods: A two-phase cross-sectional study was undertaken, consisting of a survey of subject conveners of medical, pharmacy, midwifery and nursing programs across Australia, followed by interviews with a sub-sample of volunteers. Students enrolled in Midwifery and Pharmacy at University of Canberra were also surveyed. Data was analysed using Qualtrics and NVivo. Results: Midwifery could be considered the profession requiring the most comprehensive lactation education and the survey demonstrated that only the midwifery programs covered 7 key content areas consistently. Midwifery students received the most breastfeeding education with 78% of programs delivering more than 10 hours of content while 81% of pharmacy programs and 60% of nursing delivered less than 2 hours. Delivery of content was integrated across the degree for students in midwifery and nursing, while in pharmacy breastfeeding content was typically delivered as a stand-alone module. 80% pharmacy and 100% midwifery students felt that breastfeeding information was a useful skill required for them in their profession, however 90% and 24% respectively did not feel that the amount of education received was adequate. Discussion: Pharmacy programs deliver significantly less breastfeeding education than midwifery programs, which is reflected in Pharmacy students feeling the amount of education that they receive is inadequate. This may lead to insufficient content consolidation and poor knowledge integration into practice. Improvements in education may need to be made to provide appropriate levels of support to breastfeeding women by non-midwifery health professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-25
Number of pages1
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


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