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Open Access Research

A qualitative study of the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding by health professionals in Niamey, Niger

Aïssata Moussa Abba12*, Maria De Koninck3 and Anne-Marie Hamelin4

Author Affiliations

1 Programme interfacultaire de doctorat en santé communautaire, Faculté des sciences infirmières et Faculté de médecine, Université Laval, Québec City, Canada

2 BP 13210 Niamey, Niger

3 Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, Québec City, Canada

4 Department of Food Sciences and Nutrition, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Université Laval, Québec City, Canada

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International Breastfeeding Journal 2010, 5:8  doi:10.1186/1746-4358-5-8

Published: 8 August 2010

Abstract

Background

The practice of exclusive breastfeeding depends on various factors related to both mothers and their environment, including the services delivered by health professionals. It is known that support and counseling by health professionals can improve rates, early initiation and total duration of breastfeeding, particularly exclusive breastfeeding. Mothers' decisions are influenced by health professionals' advice. However, in Niger the practice of exclusive breastfeeding is almost non-existent.

The purpose of this exploratory study, of which some results are presented here, was to document health professionals' attitudes and practices with regard to exclusive breastfeeding promotion in hospital settings in the urban community of Niamey, Niger.

Methods

Fieldwork was conducted in Niamey, Niger. A qualitative approach was employed. Health professionals' practices were observed in a sample of frontline public healthcare facilities.

Results

The field observation results presented here indicate that exclusive breastfeeding is not promoted in healthcare facilities because the health professionals do not encourage it and their practices are inappropriate. Some still have limited knowledge or are misinformed about this practice or do not believe in it. They do not systematically discuss exclusive breastfeeding with mothers, or they mention it only briefly and without giving any explanation. Worse still, some encourage the use of breast milk substitutes, which are frequently promoted in healthcare facilities. Thus mothers often receive contradictory messages.

Conclusion

The results suggest the need to train or retrain health professionals with regard to exclusive breastfeeding, and regularly supervise their activities.