Changes in Speech-Language Pathology Students’ Attitudes Toward Breastfeeding During a Pediatric Dysphagia Course

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Background:Speech-language pathologists provide infant feeding assessment and intervention; their training in breastfeeding management is highly variable.Research aim:The purpose of this study was to evaluate student attitudes toward breastfeeding and self-identified factors in attitude change.Methods:Before and after their course in pediatric dysphagia, two cohorts of graduate students in speech-language pathology (N = 36) completed an assignment designed to capture qualitative and quantitative data on changes in their attitudes toward breastfeeding. Students rated their reactions to two hypothetical breastfeeding scenarios before and after the class, which included multiple sources of information on the importance of human milk and on breastfeeding management. Additionally, they completed a postclass reflection describing the nature of any changes in their attitudes toward breastfeeding and their ideas about the factors that were responsible for these changes. Nonparametric statistical tests were used to assess quantitative results; the qualitative data were evaluated via content analysis to identify themes.Results:Significant positive changes in student attitudes were measured at the completion of the course. Students identified parents’ stories as a particularly compelling component of their increased openness to breastfeeding.Conclusion:Attitudes toward breastfeeding may improve significantly over a relatively short period of time following a targeted intervention. Implications for lactation consultants and continuing education providers are discussed.

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