Treatment of insufficient lactation is often not evidence-based.
This descriptive correlation study determined the attitudes and behaviors of obstetrics nurses toward breastfeeding and early lactation. Maternity nursing staff at 20 Midwestern hospitals, representing all levels of prenatal care in urban and rural settings, voluntarily answered a 19-item questionnaire. A total of 230 anonymous responses were received. Sixty-four percent of the nurses would recommend or actively encourage breastfeeding and were very interested in helping a woman learn how to breastfeed. Time factors, including shortened length of stay, and lack of knowledge were perceived to be the primary barriers for nurses in assisting mothers to breastfeed. Nurses who cited length of stay as a barrier had more years in obstetric nursing (p < .05). Level of nurses' education correlated positively to active encouragement and support of breastfeeding (p = .024), as well as personal breastfeeding experience (p = .02). The average discharge breastfeeding rate at the study hospitals was 40 percent, well below the national average of 56 percent. Both education and personal experience influence the nurse's attitudes and behaviors in the promotion of breastfeeding. These nurses perceived breastfeeding support as too time-consuming, which suggests that they have not fully adapted to shorter obstetric stays. Nurses need support and continuing education to identify personal bias and knowledge deficits which hinder breastfeeding promotion.