Gender and personal breastfeeding experience of rural GP registrars in Australia - a qualitative study of their effect on breastfeeding attitudes and knowledge

Brodribb, W. E., Jackson, C., Fallon, A. B. and Hegney, D. G. (2007) Gender and personal breastfeeding experience of rural GP registrars in Australia - a qualitative study of their effect on breastfeeding attitudes and knowledge. The International Electronic Journal of Rural & Remote Health Research, Education, Practice & Policy, 7 3: Article No. 737.

Attached Files (Some files may be inaccessible until you login with your UQ eSpace credentials)
Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
UQ151245_OA.pdf Full text (open access) application/pdf 173.62KB 2
av_119864.pdf Author version application/pdf 62.77KB 236
Author Brodribb, W. E.
Jackson, C.
Fallon, A. B.
Hegney, D. G.
Title Gender and personal breastfeeding experience of rural GP registrars in Australia - a qualitative study of their effect on breastfeeding attitudes and knowledge
Journal name The International Electronic Journal of Rural & Remote Health Research, Education, Practice & Policy   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1445-6354
Publication date 2007-07-20
Year available 2007
Sub-type Article (original research)
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 7
Issue 3
Start page Article No. 737
Total pages 10
Editor P. Worley
Place of publication Geelong, Vic., Australia
Publisher Australian Rural Health Education Network, Deakin University
Collection year 2008
Language eng
Subject C1
730209 Rural health
730302 Nursing
321101 Midwifery
Formatted abstract
While most doctors believe they have a major role to play in breastfeeding promotion, and consider it worthwhile taking time to assist women to continue to breastfeed, it appears that gender and personal breastfeeding experience affect their attitude and confidence concerning breastfeeding issues. As doctors practicing in rural and regional areas may be expected to provide a greater degree of assistance and support for breastfeeding women, their views on these topics are of particular interest. This article reports the results of qualitative interviews with eight GP registrars from rural and regional Australia, and their views about the influence gender and personal experience have on their ability to assist breastfeeding women. The study is part of a larger project investigating the breastfeeding skills and knowledge of GP registrars as a basis for designing a tailored educational breastfeeding resource. This project uses mixed methods and triangulation of data.

Semi-structured, one-on-one interviews were conducted with eight GP registrars from southern Queensland, Australia. The participants were chosen so that there were eight unique combinations of age (<34 or ≥34), gender (male or female) and breastfeeding experience (self or spouse had breastfed/had not breastfed) to ensure diversity of responses and increase the transferability of results. Demographics were collected from each participant, as well as information about: their attitudes to breastfeeding and to counselling breastfeeding women; their perception of breastfeeding knowledge needs and their confidence assisting breastfeeding women; and prior training about breastfeeding. Transcripts of the recorded interviews were returned to the participants for verification before analysis. Emergent themes were identified both within and between interviews following content analysis.

Four male and four female registrars with a mean age of 35 years (range 28-43 years) were recruited. Two participants of each gender were parents and their children had been breastfed for more than 6 months. Half the participants practised in small or other rural communities (RRMA 4 or 5), with three of the remainder practising in regional areas. Participants perceived that women thought female doctors were more knowledgeable and skilful concerning breastfeeding issues, regardless of their training or experience. They also assumed that women with breastfeeding problems would attend a female GP in preference to a male GP. These assumptions led male participants’ to question the need for them to know any more than basic breastfeeding information. Being female, however, did not automatically confer special breastfeeding knowledge, with nulliparous female participants also mentioning a lack of knowledge and skills. In contrast, having personal breastfeeding experience (of self or spouse) was an important source of breastfeeding information and skill development, and increased the participants’ confidence to assist breastfeeding women. Those without personal breastfeeding experience questioned the validity of the information they provided and felt that they would not be competent to assist mothers until they had had personal breastfeeding experience.

This subset of rural Australian GP registrars acknowledged that both gender and personal experience with breastfeeding influenced their attitudes, perceived knowledge and confidence with breastfeeding issues. Female doctors were thought to be more knowledgeable and skilful in assisting breastfeeding women. Additionally, personal breastfeeding experience was thought to be important for gaining competence in the area. While GPs do not work with breastfeeding women in isolation, they appear to be an important resource for breastfeeding women, particularly when living in rural and remote areas. These results have implications for those training GP registrars. Both men and women should be encouraged to learn practical breastfeeding information and skills to assist breastfeeding women, rather than relying on personal or spousal breastfeeding experience. By having some expertise in the area, they can work in partnership with others in the community to provide the services mothers need.
Keyword breastfeeding
general practice
primary care
general practitioners
References 1. Freed GL, Clark SJ, Curtis P, Sorenson JR. Breast-feeding education and practice in family medicine. Journal of Family Practice 1995; 40: 263-267. 2. Pascoe JM, Pletta K, Beasley J, Schellpfeffer M. Best Start breastfeeding promotion campaign. Pediatrics 2002; 109: 170. 3. Finneran B, Murphy K. Breast is best for GPs -or is it? Breastfeeding attitudes and practice of general practitioners in the Mid-West of Ireland. Irish Medical Journal 2004; 97: 268-270. 4. Burglehaus MJ, Smith LA, Sheps SB, Green LW. Physicians and breastfeeding: beliefs, knowledge, self-efficacy and counselling practices. Canadian Journal of Public Health Revue Canadienne de Sante Publique 1997; 88: 383-387. 5. Williams EL, Hammer LD. Breastfeeding attitudes and knowledge of pediatricians-in-training. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 1995; 11: 26-33. 6. Guise J-M, Freed GL. Resident physician's knowledge of breastfeeding and infant growth. Birth 2000; 27: 49-53. 7. Schanler RJ, O'Connor KG, Lawrence RA. Pediatricians' practices and attitudes regarding breastfeeding promotion. Pediatrics 1999; 103: e35. 8. Arthur CR, Saenz R, Replogle WH. Breastfeeding education, treatment and referrals by female physicians. Journal of Human Lactation 2003; 19: 303-309. 9. Tennent R, Wallace LM, Law S. Barriers to breastfeeding: a qualitative study of the views of health professionals and lay counsellors. Community Practitioner 2006; 79: 152-156. 10. Ingram J. Multiprofessional training for breastfeeding management in primary care in the UK. International Breastfeeding Journal 1: 9. (Online) 2006. Available: (Accessed 14 June 2006). 11. Cantrill RM, Creedy DK, Cooke M. An Australian study of midwives’ breast-feeding knowledge. Midwifery 2003; 19: 310-317. 12. Goldstein AO, Freed GL. Breast-feeding counselling practices of family practice residents. Family Medicine 1993; 25: 524-529. 13. Kim HS. Attitudes and knowledge regarding breast-feeding: a survey of obstetric residents in metropolitan areas of South Korea. Southern Medical Journal 1996; 89: 684-688. 14. Barton SJ. Infant feeding practices of low-income rural mothers. American Journal of Maternal and Child Nursing 2001; 26: 93-97. 15. Landers M, Hughes R, Graham K. The Darling Downs Breastfeeding Study. Toowoomba, QLD: Darling Downs Public Health Unit,1998. 16. Stamp GE, Casanova HT. A breastfeeding study in a rural population in South Australia. Rural and Remote Health 6: 495. (Online) 2006. Available: (Accessed 10 January 2007). 17. Hegney D, Fallon T, O'Brien M, Plank A, Doolan J, Brodribb W et al. The Toowoomba infant feeding support service project: Report on phase 1 -A longitudinal needs analysis of breastfeeding behaviours and supports in the Toowoomba region. Toowoomba, QLD: University of Southern Queensland/University of Queensland, 2003. 18. Sandelowski M. Whatever happened to qualitative description? Research in nursing and health 2000; 23: 334-340. 19. Sandelowski M. Combining qualitative and quantitative sampling, data collection, and analysis techniques in mixed-method studies. Research in Nursing and Health 2000; 23: 246-255. 20. General Practice Registrars Australia Ltd. The future of general practice. (Online) 2004. Available: cfm?itemID=69 (Accessed 16 May 2007). 21. Sandelowski M. Sample size in qualitative research. Research in Nursing and Health 1995; 18: 179-183. 22. Malterud K. Qualitative research: standards, challenges, and guidelines. Lancet 2001; 358: 483-488. 23. Chen CH, Shu HQ, Chi CS. Breastfeeding knowledge and attitudes of health professionals and students. Acta Paediatrica Taiwan 2001; 42: 207-211. 24. Lowe T. Breastfeeding: attitudes and knowledge of health professionals. Australian Family Physician 1990; 19: 392-398. 25. Power ML, Locke E, Chapin J, Klein L, Schulkin J. The effort to increase breast-feeding. Do obstetricians, in the forefront, need help? Journal of Reproductive Medicine 2003; 48: 72-78. 26. Dillaway HE, Douma ME. Are pediatric offices "supportive" of breastfeeding? Discrepancies between mothers' and healthcare professionals' reports. Clinical Pediatrics 2004; 43: 417-430. 27. Brodribb W, Jackson C, Fallon AB, Hegney D. Breastfeeding and the responsibilities of GPs: A qualitative study of general practice registrars. Australian Family Physician 2007; 36: 283-285.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Additional Notes online publication in html format - no page numbers

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - Collection
2008 Higher Education Research Data Collection
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: Scopus Citation Count Cited 0 times in Scopus Article
Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Fri, 06 Jun 2008, 11:59:03 EST by Susan Manion on behalf of Rural Clinical School - South West Qld Region