How Are Babies Fed? A Pilot Study Exploring Primary School Children’s Perceptions of Infant Feeding

Authors

  • Catherine Angell RM, BSc, PhD,

    1. Catherine Angell is a Lecturer in Midwifery; Jo Alexander is an Emeritus Professor of Midwifery, Maternal, and Perinatal Research; and Jane A. Hunt is a Senior Lecturer in Child Health Nursing, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, United Kingdom.
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  • Jo Alexander RM, MTD, PhD,

    1. Catherine Angell is a Lecturer in Midwifery; Jo Alexander is an Emeritus Professor of Midwifery, Maternal, and Perinatal Research; and Jane A. Hunt is a Senior Lecturer in Child Health Nursing, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, United Kingdom.
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  • Jane A. Hunt RGN, RSCN, PhD

    1. Catherine Angell is a Lecturer in Midwifery; Jo Alexander is an Emeritus Professor of Midwifery, Maternal, and Perinatal Research; and Jane A. Hunt is a Senior Lecturer in Child Health Nursing, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, United Kingdom.
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  • This research was supported by funding from Bournemouth University, Portsmouth, United Kingdom.

Address correspondence to Catherine Angell, RM, BSc, PhD, Bournemouth University, Midwifery Department, 2nd Floor, Finchdean House, St Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth PO3 6AD, UK.

Abstract

Abstract:  Background:  Breastfeeding is the optimal feeding method for human infants. In the United Kingdom some women do not initiate breastfeeding, and many commence formula milk feeding after a brief period of breastfeeding. Infant feeding perceptions may develop early in life, and this research aimed to explore infant feeding awareness among primary school children as a first step toward informing appropriate health education interventions.

Method:  Fifty-six children aged 5/6, 7/8, and 10/11 years were recruited from three schools in southern England. Children were shown a series of drawings, and were read a story about a hungry newborn baby. A creative method, “draw, write and tell,” was developed for this research. Children were asked to finish the story, showing how they thought the baby might be fed. They were given the opportunity to verbally interpret their work. A constant comparison method was used to analyze the data.

Results:  Children were aware of formula milk, breastfeeding, and solid foods. Formula milk feeding was referred to more frequently than breastfeeding. Some children combined feeding methods. Children appeared to have gained their awareness in various settings.

Conclusions:  Children have a range of perceptions around infant feeding. They appear receptive to new ideas on the subject while of primary school age. An opportunity for education in primary schools arises to present breastfeeding to children as a normal way to feed a baby, but it is vital that education is evidence based and any interventions are evaluated. (BIRTH 38:4 December 2011)

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