Breastfeeding woes make some moms give up too soon

Although 75 percent of mothers in the United States initiate breastfeeding when their baby is born, only 13 percent of them continue to breastfeed exclusively for the recommended first six months of the child’s life. (Credit: iStockphoto)

Problems with breastfeeding are extremely common among first-time mothers and may cause them to introduce formula or completely abandon breastfeeding within two months, researchers say.

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics recommends developing strategies to evaluate infant breastfeeding and address concerns soon after birth.

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“Findings from our study indicate that certain breastfeeding problems or concerns are experienced almost universally by first-time mothers, and some of those problems greatly increase the chances they will stop breastfeeding earlier than they planned,” says study co-author Caroline Chantry, a pediatrician at the University of California, Davis Medical Center.

“If we can enable mothers to achieve their breastfeeding goals, we will have a healthier nation,” Chantry says.

Although 75 percent of mothers in the United States initiate breastfeeding, only 13 percent of those women ultimately breastfeed exclusively for the recommended first six months of the child’s life.

The new study, based on a sample of 532 first-time mothers, included interviews while the women were pregnant and at six other times between birth and 60 days after the babies were born.

Ninety-two percent of the new moms reported at least one breastfeeding concern three days after birth. The most predominant concern was that the infants were not feeding well at the breast (52 percent), followed by breastfeeding pain (44 percent), and perceived lack of sufficient milk (40 percent).

The researchers collected reports of thousands of breastfeeding problems and concerns from the mothers. The concerns that were reported at interviews conducted at days three and seven after the baby’s birth were strongly associated with the moms’ subsequent decisions to supplement with formula or stop breastfeeding altogether.

“These interviews at three and seven days were conducted at a time when there may be a gap between hospital- and community-based lactation support resources,” says co-author Kathryn Dewey, professor of nutrition.

“Based on these findings, we would recommend that first-time moms, in particular, need more support to alleviate breastfeeding concerns that may arise during the first two weeks after their babies are born,” Dewey says.

“Such support could help allay any unwarranted concerns and provide new moms with the reassurance and assistance they need to meet their breastfeeding goals.”

The National Institutes of Health and the Maternal and Child Health Research Branch supported the work.

Source: University of California, Davis