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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A qualitative study exploring factors associated with mothers’ decisions to formula-feed their infants in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Kimberly Bonia1, Laurie Twells2*, Beth Halfyard1, Valerie Ludlow3, Leigh Anne Newhook4 and Janet Murphy-Goodridge5

Author Affiliations

1 Research and Evaluation, Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information, 70 O’Leary Avenue, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador A1B 2C7, Canada

2 School of Pharmacy and Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University Newfoundland, 300 Prince Philip Drive, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador A1B 3V6, Canada

3 Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador A1B 3C7, Canada

4 Janeway Pediatric Research Unit, Discipline of Pediatrics, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador A1B 3C7, Canada

5 Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Perinatal Program, Janeway Children’s Health & Rehabilitation Centre, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador A1B 3V6, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:645  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-645

Published: 12 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Breastfeeding has numerous health benefits. In 2010, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest breastfeeding initiation rate (64.0%) in Canada. Formula feeding is associated with well-known health risks. Exclusive formula feeding is the “cultural norm” in some regions of the province. Women appear resistant to changing their infant feeding behaviors and remain committed to their decision to formula-feed. The primary aim of this qualitative study was to examine individual factors that shaped mothers’ decisions to formula-feed their infants. Nineteen mothers who were currently formula feeding their children participated in the study.

Methods

Qualitative research in the form of focus groups was conducted in three communities in the province in 2010. A thematic content analysis identified the main themes that influenced mothers’ decisions to formula-feed their infants.

Results

The main themes included issues concerning the support needed to breastfeed, the convenience associated with formula feeding, and the embarrassment surrounding breastfeeding in public.

Conclusions

These findings help to better understand why mothers choose formula feeding over breastfeeding and may help to inform the development of public health interventions targeted at this population of mothers.

Keywords:
Formula feeding; Public Health; Newfoundland and Labrador; Canada; Infant feeding decisions