Care of women and infants in the community in the months postpartum is an under-researched area of primary care. Women suffer significant morbidity during that time with both maternal and infant issues dynamically interacting with each other. Poor maternal and infant health and wellbeing have negative consequences for both in the short, medium and long-term. Therefore, mothers and infants need to be considered as a single unit, especially in the first few months of life.

The research in this stream focuses on the integrated care of mother and infant/child in the community. At present there are a number of areas of focus. The first is investigating and improving services and supports to mothers, infants and children in the community. Some of the research is centred on the transition of care between hospital and the community for mothers and infants. It explores the services that are available, the cooperation and collaboration between services and what mothers use and want within this context. In addition, we are exploring how postpartum care could be better delivered in general practice by changing systems to encourage earlier return of women to general practice and educating practice nurses. We are also exploring the contraceptive needs of Aboriginal women in the postpartum period, especially if they are breastfeeding.

The second main area of research interest is infant feeding. It includes investigating how women receive and accept information about infant feeding practices and what communication methods are best at influencing parental behaviours with regard to infant feeding. Breastfeeding rates and when mothers introduction of other foods and fluids, as well as infant feeding in emergencies are covered. The transition to non-milk feedings are being explored in more detail to encompass the 'why' of the decision making process as well as 'how' and 'when'. Infant feeding practices and decision making are being explored in Australian and Burmese refugee communities. From a health professional perspective we are exploring breastfeeding knowledge and beliefs as well as investigating what information health professionals need to know about the use of medicines and drugs during lactation to provide the information women need.

Another area relates to crying infants. It is investigating the most appropriate method of providing a comprehensive approach, using trans-disciplinary integration of evidence and interdisciplinary methodologies, to manage crying infants and their mothers in primary care. POSSUMS is a primary care initiative dealing with infants from 0-12 months and their families. Feeding, growth, crying and sleep issues as well as maternal mental health issues are managed by GPs with specialist expertise working in a multi-disciplinary team.

Current projects

  • Improving the care of mothers and infant in general practice in the first 12 months after birth - a pilot intervention with practice nurses (Funded by UQ Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences/Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences 2015 Research Collaboration Seeding Grant Project contact: A/Prof Wendy Brodribb): This project aims to test and evaluate a pilot educational intervention to enhance maternal and infant postpartum care by practice nurses. Six evidence-based modules will be developed and delivered in a two-day workshop. Data about care provided, competence and confidence and satisfaction will be collected from practice nurses and mothers pre and post intervention using questionnaires and practice diaries.
  • Reducing childhood obesity: Influencing parental infant feeding practices. (PhD study. Project contact: Michelle Harrison): This is a three phase study to develop intervention recommendations to reduce childhood obesity by improving parental infant feeding practices in line with evidence-based recommendations. The first phase investigated the present gaps in knowledge and optimal components of obesity prevention programs targeting infants and young children with key Australian early childhood obesity prevention investigators using semi-structured interviews. The second phase is a quantitative survey of mothers of infants 6-12 months of age to explore their infant feeding knowledge and practices and their feeding styles around the introduction of non-milk foods. The third phase will use semi-structured interviews to explore the drivers of Queensland mothers' infant feeding choices.
  • Feeding and infant in a foreign land: The lived experiences of Burmese refugee mothers from the Karen and Chin ethnic groups in Brisbane, Australia.  (PhD Study. Project contact: June Joseph): Using semi-structured interviews, photo-elicitation and drawing methods, this project aims to understand the cultural beliefs, practices, norms, barriers and facilitators to infant feeding pre- and post-resettlement among a group of recently -arrived Karen and Chin refugee mothers in Brisbane, Australia.
  • Exploring the breastfeeding knowledge and beliefs of first year medical students from the University of Queensland. (Project contact: A/Prof Wendy Brodribb): While there are some data about the breastfeeding knowledge and attitudes of GP registrars and doctors in Australia, there are no data about the breastfeeding knowledge of medical students. Stephanie Omage, a medical student herself, has surveyed over 350 first year medical students using a validated questionnaire to determine their knowledge and beliefs about breastfeeding early in their medical training.
  • Women's experience of postpartum care - a pilot study. (Project contact: A/Prof Wendy Brodribb): This study is being run by medical student Frances Handley-Derry and is piloting a questionnaire for mothers to investigate their health and well-being in the first 8 months postpartum and well as their health service needs during that time. It will be used as part of an NHMRC grant application.
  • Lactation related questions that mothers and health professionals ask about medications and other drugs. (Funded by GPTQ Academic registrar post. Project contact: Dr Amelia Stephens): This project is exploring the lactation related questions from the NPSMedicines Lineand the Therapeutic Advice and Information Service.
  • A qualitative study of barriers and enablers to contraception use amongst breastfeeding Indigenous Australian women in the 12 months following childbirth. (Funded by GPTQ Academic registrar post. Project contact: Dr Sarah James): This research will endeavour to understand the barriers and enablers of use and uptake of contraception amongst postpartum breastfeeding Indigenous Australian women by using focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Women will be recruited from Aboriginal medical services in Toowoomba and Warwick.
  • Postpartum health professional contact for improving maternal and infant health outcomes for healthy women and their infants.(Project contact: A/Prof Wendy Brodribb): This Cochrane Systematic Review is evaluating the evidence for the effect of health professional contact in the first month postpartum on the health and well-being of mothers and their infants.

Contact us

For more information regarding our research, please contact Associate Professor Wendy Brodribb.