Persuading Gen Ys to opt for breast over bottle
Future parents admit they know very little about the benefits of breastfeeding with most perceiving the act as "embarrassing" when performed in public, a new study by Queensland University of Technology has found.
Associate Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett, from QUT's School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, said an online survey of Gen Ys aged 18 to 29 revealed more than 75 per cent were unlikely to exclusively breastfeed their children until six months - as recommended as ideal by the World Health Organisation.
"In Australia less than half of Australian infants (48 per cent) receive any breast milk at six months and only 18 per cent were being exclusively breastfed," she said.
"The responses of the survey indicated that both young men and women did not understand the benefits of breastfeeding, perceived breastfeeding in public as embarrassing and bottle-feeding as more convenient and easier.
"There was also a high proportion of people who indicated they did not know the answers to questions such as: 'At what age should infants be introduced to other foods or fluids apart from breast milk or formula?' and 'Does breastfeeding help to prevent allergies and infections in infants?'"
The answers are: "six months" and "yes".
Professor Russell-Bennett said the study targeted people likely to have their first child within the next five to 10 years.
"The intentions of people before birth have been shown to be a good predictor of actual behaviour," she said.
"The study found while 34.5 per cent had been exclusively breastfed for at least four to six months, only 22.6 per cent were considering exclusively breastfeeding until at least six months."
Professor Russell-Bennett said the key to increasing the number of women who breastfeed their infants was about promoting "loyalty" to breastfeeding.
"One of the things that is needed to increase loyalty is a change in what is culturally accepted," she said.
"For example it should be considered 'OK' in our culture for women to breastfeed in public."
Professor Russell-Bennett said the research also supported the recent Federal Government national breastfeeding strategy which focuses less on guilt-inducing messages and more on changing cultural norms.
The study was jointly conducted by Professor Russell-Bennett and Danielle Gallegos from QUT's School of Public Health.