Through initiatives with Memorial University and other partnerships, we are able to support a number of research studies related to breastfeeding and infant feeding in Newfoundland and Labrador. By sharing and discussing these findings we can enhance policies and front line practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
Infant Feeding and its Impact on Health Care Services Use in Infants for the First Year of Life in the Eastern Health Region of Newfoundland and Labrador
NL has the lowest breastfeeding rates in Canada and although initiation rates have improved, many women stop breastfeeding prematurely. Rates of exclusive breastfeeding are well below global recommendations, with only 15% of NL women exclusively breastfeeding for six months. Apart from all the health benefits for mothers and babies associated with breastfeeding, studies have shown that there are also economic benefits due to a reduced use of health care services. Health care costs are increasing rapidly, and in an environment of fiscal constraint and limited resources, investing in preventative health care initiatives, specifically, interventions to encourage, promote, and protect breastfeeding may help to reduce the burden placed on the health care system.
In order to better understand the relationship between infant feeding and its impact on the health care system, we are currently conducting a study to examine differences in health services use (e.g., hospitalizations, visits to the ER department, physician visits) in the first year of life by method of infant feeding.
This study is funded by the Janeway Foundation.
Our specific aims are:
- To determine if there are differences by infant feeding method and: a) the use of physician services b) hospital services c) self-reported use of health services and d) medication use.
- To determine factors associated with health services use in an infant’s first year of life.
The FiNaL Study: Feeding Infants in Newfoundland and Labrador
Despite the extensive evidence for the health benefits of breastfeeding, the breastfeeding initiation rate for NL is the lowest (69.6%) in Canada. Although breastfeeding initiation rates have improved significantly over the last 30 years in NL, there is still much work to do in order to achieve the average rates seen in Canada. There has been some research conducted locally, but more research is needed in NL to better understand:
- why many women choose not to breastfeed (e.g., culture, lack of support, embarrassment) the reasons for early weaning and the low rates of exclusive breastfeeding (e.g., limited support, hospital experience)
- the types of policies and programs required to promote and protect breastfeeding in our province.
In order to answer these questions, we are recruiting mothers across the province and administering questionnaires at three time periods: during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy and in the postnatal period at 1-3 months and 6-12 months. This study is well underway with recruitment of over 1000 mothers in the prenatal period (with a goal of approximately 1400). Recruitment in our follow-up periods is going very well. The information collected through these surveys will provide very rich information from mothers in our province around issues related not only to infant feeding but access to prenatal education, the hospital and birthing experience, community supports, and the public acceptability for breastfeeding.
Infant Feeding, Maternal, and Child Health
- Twells L, Newhook L. “Can exclusive breastfeeding help to reduce the disturbing trend of childhood obesity occurring in some regions of Canada?” in Canadian Journal of Public Health 2010;101(1):36-9.
Twells L, Newhook L, Ludlow V. (2011, In Press) “Does Breastfeeding reduce the risk of Childhood Obesity?” in Childhood Obesity, In-tech publishing.
- Ludlow V, Newhook L, Temple Newhook J, Bonia K, Murphy Goodridge J, Twells L. (Accepted). “Formula Feeding Mothers Provide Insight into how Infant Feeding Decisions are Made” in Health Risk and Society.
Bonia K, Twells L, Halfyard B, Ludlow V, Newhook L, and Murphy-Goodridge J. “A qualitative study exploring factors associated with mothers’ decisions to formula-feed their infants in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.” in BMC Public Health. 2013;13:645.
- Temple Newhook J, Ludlow V, Newhook L, Bonia K, Murphy Goodridge J, and Twells L. “Infant-Feeding Among Low-Income Women: The Social Context That Shapes Their Perspectives and Experiences.” in CJNR, 2013; 45(3): 29-49.
Four Café Scientifique
An important role of the Baby Friendly Council’s Research Working Group and one that we take very seriously is public engagement. This includes travelling to local communities across our province to present: the most up to date information on the benefits of breastfeeding; research findings relevant to the local population, as well as the regional and provincial initiatives underway that help encourage and support mothers to breastfeed. More importantly, these visits provide an opportunity to hear local families tell us about their experiences with infant feeding, which can include the challenges and barriers they encounter, but also the delight at being able to breastfeed their babies and how this experience can be empowering.
Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), we have obtained funding for four Café Scientifiques-public events held in local communities that include formal presentations by experts but are more about informal discussion and information exchange. This funding has allowed us to hold Café’s in St. Johns, Corner Brook, Gander, and, very recently, Happy Valley-Goose Bay. All our events have been well attended with great media coverage in local newspapers, as well as interviews on radio and TV demonstrating the interest in infant feeding in our province. These types of events help us to understand some of the challenges and concerns around infant feeding at the local level.
Public discussions often provide us with new ideas on how to better support mothers to initiate and then continue breastfeeding. Some examples include: increasing the public awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding as well as improving public acceptability. As well, partners and grandmothers need to be engaged in the method of infant feeding, perhaps during the prenatal period. Breastfeeding mothers need access to community mother-to-mother support programs to help them get over the bumps along the way. Single moms, moms that work shifts, or students all need supports in the work place. These are important suggestions and ideas that can be developed and implemented to help our mom’s breastfeed.
Current members of the Baby Friendly Council Breastfeeding Research Group:
- Laurie Twells – PhD
- Leigh Anne Newhook – MD, MSc, FRCP
- Janet Murphy-Goodridge – RN, MN, IBCLC
- Lorraine Burrage – RN, MSc
- Beth Halfyard – MSc, PhD(c)
- Nicole Gill – MSc
- Rebecca Schiff – DEnv, BMus, PhD
- William Midodzi – PhD
- Julia Temple Newhook – PhD