i3 conference at RGU in Aberdeen Hayley Lockerbie presented on Information Behaviour and Breastfeeding.
Lockerbie identified that there was "a skewed knowledge base" around breastfeeding, particularly influenced by the milk formula companies and their relationship with healthcare professionals. The UK has quite a low rate of breastfeeding (good initiation but low persistance). She identified 69 relevant existing research studies, most from the USA, Australia and the UK. The outcomes in many of them were focused on mothers, but some were focused on healthcare professionals, and e.g. one focused on fathers. There were seven broad themes. In terms of information sources, informal and blended information sources are preferred (e.g. written plus verbal). There is a tension between trusted informal information and getting access to the evidence base. In terms of need, e.g. there seems evidence that lack of information affects the decision to breastfeed or not, and there is a need for information for mother's before the baby's birth.
Healthcare professionals were another theme, who might be seen as "keepers of knowledge" but trust could be lost and different professionals might give conflicting information. In terms of content, there was an issue of accuracy, and of realism (what it is ACTUALLY like to breastfeed, with an over-rosy picture of what it is like). Media representation was also an issue. Technology (as a theme) is seen as an enabler, particularly online/mobile, but with concerns about quality. In terms of information seeking - mothers fear being judged (which is a barrier to seeking), the information gathering happens in phases, and one study showed mothers gathering information from a wide range of sources and then used the internet to "complete" it. Finally emotions - mothers have an emotional connection to information, and emotion can be part of the information landscape.
Thus, it does seem that information plays a role in decisions about breastfeeding. There seems a lot more to explore in many areas e.g. engagement pre-birth, connection of information behaviour with cessation of breastfeeding.
Photo by Sheia Webber: Aberdeen University Library last night