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Despite high breastfeeding initiation rates in Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia, fewer mothers are still nursing when their babies are six months old. What obstacles prevent mothers in this region from nursing for longer? SteadyHealth investigates.

What could be done to increase breastfeeding rates in the four regions we surveyed? We asked participants what they thought would help. The largest number of respondents believed that better education of healthcare providers regarding the benefits of breastfeeding and ways to help mothers succeed at breastfeeding — as well as better education on how to relate to patients in a respectful manner — was the solution in Serbia (35%), FBiH (17.8%) and Srpska (16.46%). Only 4.96% of Croatian respondents answered this way, however.

In Serbia, 22% of our respondents thought that better patient education was the key way to boost breastfeeding rates, with 13% believing more activism and media coverage of the benefits of breastfeeding was the way forward. Interestingly 12.5% believed that breastfeeding is a personal choice that has nothing to do with the government, and therefore nothing can or should be done to increase breastfeeding rates.

In BiH, meanwhile, 27.4% of mothers believed that better patient information about breastfeeding was the way to increase breastfeeding rates, making this the second most popular answer after better healthcare provider education. Increased social acceptance of breastfeeding was the third most prevalent answer, with 12.5% of mothers believing this to be the solution to low breastfeeding rates in FBiH.

Respondents from Croatia answered very differently: 11.57% replied that the current healthcare system was satisfactory, and that nothing needed to be changed.

“Much has been invested in increasing breastfeeding rates”, one mother added, with another saying: “The healthcare system is fine the way it is.”

Note that not one single person from any of the remaining three regions responded this way, and that there were even those, in these regions, who said that “nothing could possibly be done” or that “everything needs to be changed”.

In Croatia, most respondents rather believed that more media promotion and social activism was the way to increase breastfeeding rates, at 19.83%. Better social acceptance of breastfeeding came in second place as the perceived best way to increase breastfeeding rates, with 16.53% of Croatian respondents answering this way.

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