Despite the widely recognized health benefits of breastfeeding and its endorsement by leading health organizations, as a preventative public health intervention, inadequate breastfeeding knowledge and lactation management skills among healthcare providers continues to be a major barrier for women who…
Despite the widely recognized health benefits of breastfeeding and its endorsement by leading health organizations, as a preventative public health intervention, inadequate breastfeeding knowledge and lactation management skills among healthcare providers continues to be a major barrier for women who choose to initiate breastfeeding. Breastfeeding competencies are not standardized in healthcare education for any of the health professions. To address this gap, a few continuing education and professional development programs have been implemented, but paucity in research regarding the efficacy of these programs exists. The purpose of this study was to explore the changes in healthcare providers’ learning outcomes related to breastfeeding support and promotion.
A non-experimental pre-posttest self-report survey design was used to assess the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of an online breastfeeding educational intervention for healthcare providers. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) provided the framework for exploring the participants’ psychological and behavioral outcomes. The research questions were: (1) What is the feasibility of an online breastfeeding course for healthcare providers? (2) What are healthcare providers’ psychological and behavioral changes occurring after completion of an online course? (3) How do the post-intervention psychological and behavioral outcomes of the online format compare with those of the previous format (hybrid) of this breastfeeding course?
Although participants’ favorably assessed the feasibility (i.e., acceptability) of the 45-hour course, several factors contributed to participants’ satisfaction level: Previous online learning experience, connectedness with others, and the degree of structural support. Significant positive changes occurring in participants were increases in their knowledge and beliefs about breastfeeding; attitudes toward formula feeding; perceived behavioral control; perceptions about being able to perform breastfeeding supportive behaviors; and intentions to perform actions that are consistent with evidence-based breastfeeding supportive behaviors. Significant changes in the beliefs about formula feeding were not in the expected direction raising conceptual and pedagogical issues. Participants had negative perceptions about being able to implement what they learned in their workplaces or to affect policy. Findings support the use of online breastfeeding education programs for healthcare providers; changes at both individual and institutional levels are necessary to change provider practices.