Providing an infant with breast milk is one the most important physiological benefits a new mother can provide for her child and is described as the most valuable method of nurturing (Cleveland, 2000; Glass et al., 2010; Isaacson, 2006; Juliff, Downie & Rapley, 2007; Kloeblen-Tarver, Thompson & Miner, 2002; Okon, 2004; Simmie, 2006; Spear, 2007; Tarrant & Dodgson, 2007) however worldwide, barely one in every three children are exclusively breastfed during the first four months of their young lives (Hunt, 2007; Isaacson, 2006). The current recommendations by the World Health Organization (2011) are that women exclusively breastfeed their infants for a minimum of the first six months of life followed by the introduction of safe complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed for as long as two years, or beyond. The benefits of breast milk are supported so extensively throughout the literature that the World Health Organization and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund have their mandate focused towards the promotion of breastfeeding (Boucher, Brazal, Graham-Certosini, Carnaghan-Sherrard & Feeley, 2011). Despite all the current recommendations, adolescent mothers and young mothers have consistently lowers levels of initiation and duration of breastfeeding compared to older adults (Glass, Tucker, Stewart, Baker & Kauffman, 2009). In 2005, there were 30,948 pregnancies under the age of 20 in Canada (Stats Canada, 2010) and in 2009 in the US, there were a total of 409, 840 infants born to teenagers between the age of 15-19 (CDC, 2011). Although rates of teenage pregnancy have declined in some areas, teenage pregnancy is still an issue where education is lacking and with the benefits of breastfeeding known worldwide, it is important that the decline in breastfeeding amongst this population be addressed.
The apparent trends seen with teen pregnancy and breastfeeding decline need to be critically evaluated by educators around the world. As a healthcare provider, it is important to understand why breastfeeding rates have declined in the teenage population, what their experiences and attitudes are towards breastfeeding and how the health care provider can implement a leadership role into the key learning areas such as maternity wards, neonatal intensive care units and public/private school systems. By addressing any potential concerns with these key issues health care providers can promote early discussion, educate both parents and address any myths, new or old, before the media influences alternative feeding methods (Ineichen, Pierce & Lawrenson, 1997).
Although there are adult mothers worldwide who choose not to breastfeed, for the purpose of this paper, just adolescent mothers will be discussed.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has many benefits to both the mother and the baby. Breast milk provides an “ infant with amino acids & fats, conveys anti-infective properties, lowers the renal solute load, supplies enzymes...