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Background: Despite forward progress in recent decades surrounding lactation support, physician mothers continue to face challenges in achieving their breastfeeding goals.

Objective: We aimed to survey personal breastfeeding experiences of faculty physician mothers who recently breastfed to help formulate a robust breastfeeding advocacy agenda. We hypothesized finding high incidence modifiable factors related to lactation support could improve physician breastfeeding goal success and ultimately improve the overall breastfeeding experience.

Design/Methods: An anonymous breastfeeding survey containing both quantitative and qualitative items was sent to female faculty physicians at an academic children’s hospital in 2020. Inclusion criteria included female faculty physicians who had given birth in the past 5 years. Of these, responses endorsing breastfeeding experience were analyzed.

Results: Fifteen percent of respondents stated that they did not meet their breastfeeding goals. The most prevalent theme for both positive and negative factors in the qualitative analysis was pumping breast milk. Physician mothers provided key insight into a) how the job role that is specific to a physician impacts breastfeeding experience, b) the impact of their return to work on breastfeeding, and c) ideas for improved lactation support. A limitation of our study was assessment at an academic pediatric institution resulting in respondents comprised of pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists who may have increased knowledge of the AAP’s recommendations regarding breastfeeding.

Conclusion(s): Our study highlights how differences in pumping experiences have a profound impact on the faculty physician’s perception of having either a positive or negative breastfeeding experience. Development of a more individualized breastfeeding support plan for each faculty physician, with attention to physical space and time accommodations for pump breaks is needed. We believe conversation surrounding lactation support between employer and the faculty physician should occur prior to maternity leave and continue at regular intervals upon return to monitor for changes in needs. This study echoes the need for ongoing efforts to improve maternal and infant health by advocating for faculty physicians who are providing breast milk for their child. Future studies should evaluate the benefit of advocacy and a detailed, individualized breastfeeding support plan developed as a result of this study.

Presented at the 2021 PAS Virtual Conference



Developing a Breastfeeding Advocacy Agenda through Insight from Breastfeeding Experiences of Faculty Physicians

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