Knowledge of newborn healthcare among pregnant women: basis for promotional and educational programs on breastfeeding

CONTEXT: Promotional and educational programs relating to breastfeeding are important for reversing the decline in this practice. Most programs are centered exclusively on breastfeeding, although general knowledge about newborn healthcare may be important, especially among pregnant women. OBJECTIVE: To study pregnant women's knowledge about general healthcare of newborns, including breastfeeding aspects. TYPE OF STUDY: Cross-sectional. SETTING: Prof. Samuel Barnsley Pessoa Health School Center, Faculty of Medicine, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil. PARTICIPANTS: All pregnant women who were registered in the prenatal care program during six consecutive months. MAIN MEASUREMENTS: Aspects of the current gestation, previous gestations and childbirths, knowledge of the general aspects of newborn healthcare and of breastfeeding practices. RESULTS: The results show that only a little over half of the pregnant women had received any information on newborn healthcare. Misinformation was clearly present regarding proper care of the umbilical stump and the nature of jaundice, and worst regarding how to treat oral thrush and jaundice, and about vaccination. In relation to breastfeeding, even though almost all the pregnant women declared their intention to breastfeed, less than half had a concrete response regarding how long to do it for. The low rates obtained in the topics dealing with the duration, nursing intervals and the attitude to be taken towards hypogalactia show unfamiliarity with the breastfeeding technique. The "weak milk" belief, the misinformation about contraceptive methods during breastfeeding and the cost of artificial formulas also have a negative impact on this practice. CONCLUSIONS: Pregnant women's knowledge of newborn healthcare is low, as much in the aspects of general care as in relation to the practice of breastfeeding. These findings must be taken into consideration in educative programs promoting breastfeeding.

Breast-feeding; Promotional programs; Educational programs

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