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The Support Needs and Current Practices of Public Health Nurses in the Republic of Ireland Who Provide Support to Breastfeeding Mothers: A Cross-Sectional Survey.

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Walsh, Annemarie 
McCluskey, Rachel 
Cassidy, Deirdre 
McGoldrick, Gerardine 


BACKGROUND: Breastfeeding continuation rates are low in Ireland. The Breastfeeding Observation and Assessment Tool (BOAT) was developed to assist public health nurses in assessing breastfeeding challenges; however, little is known of its actual usage, the level of training experienced or desired by public health nurses, or their level of confidence in the support they provide to breastfeeding mothers. RESEARCH AIM: To identify the current practices and support needs of public health nurses who provide breastfeeding support in Ireland. METHOD: An online questionnaire was devised to collect respondents' confidence with breastfeeding issues, caseload, and practices. It was distributed to public health nurses with a current child health caseload in one Community Healthcare Organization. Mann Whitney U tests were used to ascertain the relationship between public health nurses' confidence level and those with qualifications in midwifery or as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). RESULTS: The survey was completed by 66 public health nurses. Only 14 respondents (21.2%) indicated that they always used the BOAT. The most common reason for not doing so was a lack of education on its use (n = 17, 25.8%). Postholders also certified as IBCLCs were considered by participants to be the most appropriate professionals to resolve certain breastfeeding issues. Confidence levels to manage breastfeeding issues were highest among public health nurses with IBCLC credentialing (U = 12.5, p = .001) while no difference was seen when comparing those with a midwifery degree to those without (U = 184.0, p = .92). Face-to-face workshops and blended-learning approaches were ranked as the preferred formats for breastfeeding education (Median rank = 2). CONCLUSIONS: Breastfeeding education incorporating a face-to-face component is needed to support public health nurses who work with breastfeeding mothers, as is prioritization of recruitment in the community of public health nurses with IBCLC credentials.


Peer reviewed: True


breastfeeding, community, cross-sectional survey, education, nurses, public health nurses, Female, Child, Humans, Breast Feeding, Cross-Sectional Studies, Nurses, Public Health, Ireland, Surveys and Questionnaires, Mothers

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J Hum Lact

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SAGE Publications