Mums need more support
The survey found that more focus is needed
on supporting breastfeeding mums, rather
than on educating people about the benefits
of breastfeeding.
Image: Joy Parkinson, University of 

Convincing new mums to breastfeed and continue breastfeeding relies on partner and family support not a campaign of guilt and fear, according to a new Queensland University of Technology (QUT) survey.

Joy Parkinson, who is undertaking a PhD degree in social marketing with QUT's School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, said the survey of 405 women with babies under the age of 18 months, found women highly valued the support of family and friends when it came to coping with breastfeeding.

"Women were more concerned with receiving support to help them cope with breastfeeding from their partner, family and friends, than what these people actually thought about them breastfeeding or not," she said.

Ms Parkinson said the study revealed while most women understood breastfeeding was important and planned to breastfeed, this was not enough to achieve improved breastfeeding outcomes.

She said the "fear and guilt" approach to encourage women to breastfeed which focused on the "baby benefits", was not working.

"It's time that a social marketing approach was used rather than education or policy solutions," she said.

"A social marketing approach emphasises free choice and the provision of products or services to help people breastfeed for as long as they can."

For example this could include an interactive website that assists women in answering their breastfeeding questions or an SMS service where women receive various messages according to their current needs and situation.

"In fact the findings of this study provides an explanation for the lack of impact of these education campaigns on breastfeeding rates in Australia," she said.

"The social support received from the woman's partner was found to be important to them along with support from family and friends. It is not important what people close to them think about their decision to breastfeed, what is important is the support they receive."

Ms Parkinson said if governments wanted to increase breastfeeding rates they needed to increase loyalty to the act of breastfeeding and this would be best achieved by encouraging support from family and friends.

"There needs to be a more mother-centred approach as opposed to a baby-centred approach," she said.

"Ensuring that new mums get the support they need to cope with the often difficult task of breastfeeding is essential to boosting breastfeeding rates and increasing the length of time women breastfeed.

"One of the most surprising things that came out of this study was that positive attitudes towards breastfeeding didn't equate to larger numbers of women breastfeeding for longer.

"Women are positive about breastfeeding but concerned by the way they feel and the support and help they receive." 

Editor's Note: Original news release can be found here.