Primary school children's perceptions of infant feeding: exploring their awareness using an adapted'draw and write' method
This source preferred by Catherine Angell
Authors: Angell, C.
Background: Breastfeeding is recognised as the optimal feeding method, conferring short and long term benefits to infants and their mothers. In the UK some women do not initiate breastfeeding. Many commence formula milk feeding at birth or after a brief period of breastfeeding. Often women have decided how to feed their infants before conception or even during adolescence, prior to when infant feeding education has traditionally been provided. Negative attitudes to breastfeeding amongst some social groups, and lack of familiarity with the practice appear to contributing factors. This research has explored infant feeding awareness of children in primary schools as a first step towards informing appropriate health education interventions. Methods: Fifty six children aged 5/6, 7/8 and 10/11 years were recruited to the study from 3 schools in rural and urban areas of Southern England. Children were shown a series of drawings, and read a story about a hungry baby. They were asked to finish the story, showing how they thought the baby was fed, using the ‘draw, write and tell’ method, developed as an adaptation of ‘draw and write’. The children produced one or more pictures, often with text, and were offered the opportunity to talk about their work; the data were united in a ‘commentary’. Codes emerged, which were combined into categories. Mapping and charting techniques were used to identify five key areas for discussion. Results: The development, and flexibility, in children’s ideas regarding infant feeding was noted. Whilst breastfeeding was identified by some children, breastfeeding terminology and imagery were problematic for many. The prevalence of feeding bottles and references to formula milk were striking, with children identifying these as equivalent to breastfeeding. Solid foods were frequently referred to by children, and seemed to be identified with formula milk feeding rather than breastfeeding. Conclusions: For the first time this study identified primary school children’s awareness of different feeding methods and the inter-relationships between these methods. It appeared difficult for children to view breastfeeding as normal, perhaps because it is rarely seen or discussed, and formula milk feeding is so prevalent. The children were interested in the subject and it is anticipated that infant feeding education with these age groups would be beneficial. Introducing children to breastfeeding needs to be achieved with care and sensitivity, using language and imagery with which they are confident. In addition, the efficacy of ‘draw, write and tell’ and the challenges of using this method are discussed.