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Women Need More Support to Overcome Breastfeeding Worries

Update Date: Jul 11, 2013 06:38 PM EDT
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A new study reveals that mothers need more support to overcome their breastfeeding worries.

Researchers say the latest study may help new moms breastfeed their babies for longer.

The study, published in BMC Pediatrics, found that new moms aren't following recommended guidelines and are weaning their infants early instead of feeding them just breast milk for the first six months of life.

"Women's attitudes towards breastfeeding even before the baby is born can predict whether or not moms are going to breastfeed, so it is important that everything from the home environment to public spaces supports nursing moms," Anna Farmer, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science and the Center for Health Promotion Studies, said in a news release.

"We need to address their concerns and misconceptions about breastfeeding, especially young first-time mothers," said Farmer.

Researchers surveyed 402 pregnant women at three months and six months after birth and found that while almost 99 per cent of the women started out breastfeeding their babies, only 54 percent were still exclusively breastfeeding three months after giving birth.  Researchers said that that percentage dropped again to 15 percent by six months.

The findings revealed that 54 percent of the women in the study and 53 percent of the mothers who fed their infants formula during the first six months after birth had neutral attitudes towards breastfeeding.  The study found that more than half of the women in the study stopped breastfeeding because of their perceptions of milk inadequacy or other problems.

Researchers also found that women with post-graduate university degrees were 37 percent more likely to breastfeed exclusively for six months as opposed to those without a degree.  The study also found that mothers with previous children were also more likely to breastfeed for longer.

Researchers advise new moms to breastfeed for as long as possible, even on a partial basis.

Farmer and her team hope that the findings will help medical professionals provide advice to pregnant women with a focus on what may or may not be known about exclusive, long-term breastfeeding, to help promote the practice beyond the first few months after birth.

She also recommends more policy provisions for nursing rooms in public facilities.

"The social environment needs to be more open. Women need spaces where they can breastfeed quietly without feeling ashamed," Farmer said.

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