New Mothers Don't Often Receive Infant Care Recommendations

Many new mothers do not receive advice from physicians on how to care for their infants, which opens opportunities for pharmacists to provide patient education.

Many new mothers do not receive advice from physicians on how to care for their infants, which opens opportunities for pharmacists to provide patient education.

Tonse N. K. Raju, MD, DCH, chief of the pregnancy and perinatology branch at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told Pharmacy Times that pharmacists can educate new mothers and fathers, as well as other family members, about safe infant sleeping, immunizations, and resources for breastfeeding.

Pharmacists can also help raise awareness and reduce sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) risk by educating new parents, Dr. Raju noted.

“Hospital pharmacists, particularly those in the [neonatal intensive care unit] or other pediatric units caring for patients younger than 12 months, also can be instrumental,” he told Pharmacy Times.

“Pharmacists can ensure that infants in the hospital are sleeping in the appropriate position, both for safety purposes and to demonstrate how the parents should position the infant at home. Hospital-based pharmacists may also have the opportunity to counsel parents before their infant is discharged; if so, information on SIDS risk reduction should be communicated.”

The NIH-funded study involved 1031 mothers of infants aged 2 to 6 months. The new mothers were asked true or false questions about the advice they received from physicians, nurses, family, and the media about immunization, breastfeeding, pacifiers, and sleeping positions and locations.

For example, one of the questions concerned whether a physician had given them advice about breastfeeding. If the mother answered false, then the researchers considered this response “no advice.”

If she said true, then they further determined whether the information she received was consistent with current guidelines.

While physicians were the most common sources for advice, approximately 20% of the new mothers said they received no advice from physicians on breastfeeding and sleeping positions. Furthermore, more than half said they did not receive advice on sleeping location or pacifier use.

The researchers also discovered that 10% to 15% of the advice from physicians was not consistent with recommendations for breastfeeding and pacifier use. Reports of advice from nurses were similar to those from physicians, but fewer mothers indicated getting advice about immunizations from nurses.

Family and the media were sources of advice for 20% to 56% of the women on almost all infant care issues, but the researchers said the information was not always consistent with recommendations.

For example, nearly 20% of the advice that women received from the media about breastfeeding did not match current guidelines. In addition, more than one-quarter of new mothers said the media gave advice about vaccinations, but the information was also not consistent with recommendations.

“By identifying care practices with low prevalence of recommendation-consistent advice from potentially important advisors, our findings highlight opportunities for future intervention,” the researchers concluded.

The authors noted that the advice reported by the new mothers could differ from the actual advice provided by physicians, nurses, family members, and the media.

Mothers may be able to find guidelines about immunizations, breastfeeding, and safe sleeping behaviors through medical and public health advocacy groups, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The researchers noted that advice about infant care has been linked with increased adherence to recommended infant care practices.

“We may need to be clearer and more specific in telling new mothers about safe sleep recommendations,” stated study author Staci R. Eisenberg, MD, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, in a press release. “From a public health perspective, there is a real opportunity to engage families and the media to promote infant health.”

The study was published in Pediatrics.