How Women Choose: Breast or Bottle

Breastfeeding more likely among outgoing women possibly because they seek more support

(RxWiki News) When a new baby is on the way, a mother may think of all sorts of plans she has for her child. But when the little bundle arrives, some of those best laid plans may not pan out.

One such plan women may have is to breastfeed their children. But not all women who plan to breastfeed actually succeed or breastfeed for very long.

A recent study found that outgoing women were more likely to breastfeed than those who keep more to themselves.

One possible reason for this might be that outgoing women were more likely to seek support for breastfeeding.

Having support is one factor that contributes to a higher likelihood that women will breastfeed for longer.

"See a lactation consultant if you have breastfeeding difficulties."

This study, conducted by Amy Brown, a senior lecturer in the Department of Public Health and Policy Studies at Swansea University in the United Kingdom, looked at personality traits and circumstances that may be linked to breastfeeding.

Brown gave questionnaires to 602 mothers with babies between 6 months and 1 year old.

The questions asked about the mothers' personality traits, how long they breastfed their babies and their experiences with and attitudes toward breastfeeding.

Of the whole sample, 17 percent of the women formula fed their children from birth while 83 percent began breastfeeding their children from birth.

Yet 47 percent of these women breastfed for less than three months, some for as little as two days.

Overall about a third of the women (36 percent) breastfed their babies for at least six months.

Brown's analysis of the results revealed that women who felt more emotionally stable and were more outgoing were more likely to start and continue breastfeeding for a longer period of time.

In particular, mothers whose responses revealed stronger emotional stability were more likely to breastfeed to six months and at every step along the way.

Four different attitudes appeared to be most influential in determining whether or not a woman breastfed her child:

  • If breastfeeding was difficult (painful, exhausting)
  • If breastfeeding was inconvenient (a significant burden)
  • Believing that formula fed infants are more content
  • Believing that breastfeeding is healthier for mother and child

The researcher also looked at connections between the women's personalities and reasons they may have stopped breastfeeding.

She found that mothers who had higher emotional stability were less likely to stop breastfeeding due to a lack of support, but women with more symptoms of anxiety were more likely to quit for this reason.

Brown concluded that having confidence about breastfeeding played a role in a woman's decision to start and continue breastfeeding.

Meanwhile, not having sufficient support may be a reason that other women did not begin breastfeeding or did not breastfeed for very long.

"Breastfeeding, although natural, is a skill, which can take time to master with many mothers ceasing breastfeeding due to difficulties getting the infant to latch on, pain from cracked nipples or concerns about milk supply," Brown wrote.

She noted that the link between being extroverted and breastfeeding may exist if outgoing women are more likely to seek help for breastfeeding problems.

Further, women who were more introverted (keeping to themselves) were more likely to quit breastfeeding because they felt pressure from others to do so or because they felt embarrassed, such as while needing to feed their child in front of others.

Knowing what traits and circumstances are encouraging to women for breastfeeding can help others support women who breastfeed.

Women may also be more likely to succeed in breastfeeding with strong support, Brown suggested.

This study was published August 5 in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. The research was funded by the ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship. The author reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 6, 2013