Many new mothers do not receive advice from clinicians on infant care or receive advice from healthcare professionals or family members that is not consistent with recommendations and guidelines, reports a new study in Pediatrics. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Staci R. Eisenberg, MD, from Boston Medical Center, and colleagues surveyed 1,031 new mothers when their infant was between 2 and 6 months of age via questionnaires on advice they received from their infant’s doctor, birth hospital nurses, family members, and the news media. The advice was also compared to recommendations from professional practitioner groups like those from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

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About 20% of mothers reported that they did not receive advice from their clinicians on current breastfeeding recommendations or on placing infants on their backs to sleep in order to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); over 50% stated that they received no advice on where their infants should sleep. When advice was given, 10–15% of the advice on breastfeeding and pacifier use was not consistent with recommendations and just over 25% of the advice on sleep position or location was not consistent with recommendations. For women who received physician advice on sleep position that was inconsistent with recommendations, 85% reported being advised to place the infant on his or her back and at least one other position (usually the side). Of the more than 32% of mothers reporting family advice regarding infant sleep position that was inconsistent with recommendations, 51% had been told to place infants to sleep on their stomach.

Clinicians may be reluctant to give advice to new mothers because they do not know about recommendations, disagree with a recommendation, or believe that it is controversial or could lead to a lengthy conversation, the authors conclude. However, new mothers do listen to clinicians and these office visits could be opportunities to improve infant care.

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