Antenatal counseling on breastfeeding and postnatal lactation support are likely to improve rates of exclusive breastfeeding. This descriptive study was undertaken to assess whether antenatal visits were utilized for promotion of exclusive breastfeeding in addition to the routine obstetric services.
This descriptive study was conducted at a tertiary hospital in Pondicherry, India. Every third primigravida mother admitted in the maternity ward from June to December 2005 was recruited. Among these 144 primigravida mothers, 108 who had a minimum of three antenatal visits ("booked") were included in the study. These 108 mothers were administered a pre-tested semi-structured questionnaire on breastfeeding in the local language, Tamil, within 24 hours of giving birth. Appropriate flash cards with pictures were also used while administering the questionnaire. The awareness among mothers (both "counseled" and "not counseled") regarding health information pertaining to breastfeeding was assessed.
Of the booked mothers, 21% (n = 23) had received some antenatal counseling about breastfeeding while 79% (n = 85) had not received any such counseling. Four percent had undergone breast examination during antenatal visits. Awareness related to breastfeeding among mothers in the "counseled" group was better than those in the "not counseled" group. Even in the "counseled" group, awareness among mothers with regard to correct breastfeeding technique and concept of continuing breastfeeding during illness in the baby was no different from those in the "not counseled" group.
Existing antenatal counseling on breastfeeding is inadequate in the population studied and needs to be strengthened. Informing all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding should be a priority during antenatal visits.