Breastfeeding: Mothers and health practitioners in the context of private medical care in Gauteng

  • D du Plessis
Keywords: breastfeeding, Gauteng province, South Africa, paediatric nutrition, postnatal care


Despite the well-documented health benefi ts of breastfeeding and recommendations by the Department of Health for women to exclusively breastfeed for approximately the fi rst 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 fi gures 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 fi gure 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 specifi c 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 fi rst 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 fi ndings. Ethical considerations were based on the DENOSA Ethical Standards for Nurse Researchers (1998:2.3.2–2.3.4). Themes and sub-themes were identifi ed.

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eISSN: 2071-9736
print ISSN: 1025-9848