An Australian study of midwives' breast-feeding knowledge
Objective: to investigate midwives' breast-feeding knowledge, assess associations between knowledge and role, and report on the validity and reliability of the Breast-feeding Knowledge Questionnaire for the Australian context. Design: postal questionnaire. Setting: national Australia. Participants: midwives (n=3500) who are members of the Australian College of Midwives Inc (ACMI). Findings: a response rate of 31% (n=1105) was obtained. Respondents were knowledgeable of the benefits of breast feeding and common management issues. Key areas requiring attention included management of low milk supply, immunological value of human milk, and management of a breast abscess during breast feeding. Participants over the age of 30, possessing IBCLC qualifications; having personal breast-feeding experience of more than three months; and more clinical experience achieved higher knowledge scores. Role perceptions were positive with 90% of midwives reporting being confident and effective in meeting the needs of breast-feeding women in the early postnatal period. Midwives' role perception contributed 39% of the variance in general breast-feeding knowledge scores and was a significant predictor of participants' breast-feeding knowledge. Key conclusions and implications for practice: the level of basic breast-feeding knowledge of Australian midwives was adequate but there are deficits in key areas. Knowledge variations by midwives may contribute to conflicting advice experienced by breast-feeding women. Further research is needed to investigate in-depth breast-feeding knowledge, breast-feeding promotion practices, and associations between knowledge and practice.