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Breast Or Bottle Depends On Mom's Personality

Update Date: Aug 06, 2013 10:57 AM EDT

A mother's personality predicts whether she'll breastfeed or turn to the bottle, a new study suggests. 

Mothers who are more extroverted and less anxious are more likely to breastfeed and to continue to breastfeed than those who are introverted or anxious, according to a new analysis.

British researchers said the latest findings suggest that new mothers with certain personalities may need additional support and education to help them feel confident, self assured and knowledgeable about breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is critical for the health of both mother and baby.  Previous studies revealed that breastfed babies are significantly less likely to have infections and allergies and be overweight.  Breastfeeding can also reduce a mother's risk for cancer and heart disease.

Researchers said many factors can affect whether a mother breastfeeds. However, new moms who have lots of support, feel confident and known hoe to overcome problems are more likely to breastfeed for longer. They say knowing what makes a woman feel confident and supported is important to increasing breastfeeding rates.

Lead researcher Amy Brown, PhD, of Swansea University in the United Kingdom, surveyed 602 mothers with infants aged six to 12 months old.  Researchers said the survey examined the mothers' personalities, how long they breastfed and their attitudes and experiences of breastfeeding.

The findings revealed that extroverts and emotionally stable mothers were significantly more likely to initiate and continue breastfeeding for a longer duration. However, mothers who were introverted or anxious were more likely to use formula milk or only breastfeed for a short time.

Researchers said the findings can be explained by the link between mothers' personalities and their attitudes and experiences of breastfeeding. They said that introverts felt more self-conscious about breastfeeding in front of others and were more likely to formula feed because other people wanted them to. Anxious mothers found breastfeeding to be difficult and felt that they couldn't get the support they needed.  Researchers said these factors have all been shown to affect breastfeeding rates.

"The important message from the findings is that some mothers may face more challenges with breastfeeding based on their wider personality. Although they may want to breastfeed, more introverted or anxious mothers may need further support in boosting their confidence and learning about how to solve problems, and they may need encouragement to make sure they access the breastfeeding support services that are available," Brown said in a news release.

The findings are published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

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