Experts have long acknowledged that breastfeeding has many benefits for both mother and baby, and many efforts and initiatives have taken place to increase the rate of breastfeeding mothers. Everything from changes in hospitals to widely published studies to education in WIC and doctor’s offices. Demographics like education, age and relationships have been explored and studied, to determine how they affect the odds and duration of breastfeeding among women. But there’s one area that’s never been explored – a mother’s personality. At least, not until now.
Amy Brown, Ph.D., of Swansea University in the United Kingdom and her colleagues surveyed a total of 602 mothers with infants between the ages of six month and 12 months old. They were asked about their personalities, how long they breastfed for, and their attitudes and their experiences of breastfeeding.
Based on the information, gathered between March and June of 2009, mothers who indicated they were extroverts and emotionally stable were significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding, and they breastfed for longer durations. However, mothers who stated that they were introverted and anxious were more likely to use formula, and tended to only breastfeed for a short time.
Dr. Brown says that these findings can be explained by the link between a mother’s personality and her attitude and experiences while breastfeeding.
Introverted mothers confessed to feeling more self-conscious about breastfeeding in front of others. And they were more likely to accommodate others around them, choosing to formula feed because others wanted them to. Mothers who were more anxious were more likely to feel like they couldn’t get the support they needed, and they were significantly more likely to feel like breastfeeding was difficult.
“The important message from the findings is that some mothers may face more challenges with breastfeeding based on their wider personality,” Brown said. “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 breastfeeding support services available.”
However, the challenge will be meeting those needs. If an immediate support system isn’t in place, it may be more difficult to reach them, or to encourage them to keep breastfeeding, despite what others around them may want or think. If reaching them is accomplished, however, it could mean better health for both mom and baby.
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