Breast is Best - But So is Planning

Breastfeeding for a longer duration produces better results

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Even for mothers who planned to breastfeed longer, the ones who planned to get pregnant had an easier time with nursing than those whose babies were surprises.

Women with unplanned pregnancies were more likely to quit breastfeeding within the first three months of their babies' lives because of greater physical and emotional pain, found a recent study.

"Breast is best: breastfeed your baby at least six months."

Author Alanna Rudzik, an anthropologist at Durham University in the U.K., investigated mothers in the low-income neighborhoods of São Paulo, Brazil - all of whom had intended to breastfeed at least three months or longer.

Yet 40 percent of the women had given up by the third month after birth. This group included older mothers and women in unsatisfying relationships with their partners.

But the most common characteristic of those who quit early were those whose pregnancies weren't planned in the first place: they were ten times more likely to be offering their children baby foods other than breastmilk at 12 weeks postpartum.

"The data revealed that the negative feelings that women have about unplanned pregnancy likewise incline them to strongly ambivalent feelings towards breastfeeding," Rudzik said.

"The interviews showed that women who had not planned to become pregnant had difficulty accepting their new role as a mother, and this expressed itself in part through strong resistance to the extremely close physical connection required by breastfeeding," she said.

Rudzik interviewed each of the women up to seven times for the study, starting with one pre-birth interview and following up every two weeks for three months.

She heard more complaints about the physical aspects of breastfeeding from the mothers with unplanned pregnancies, she said.

Comparatively, the mothers who intended to have their children "reveled in the physicality of the connection between themselves and their infants," Rudzik wrote in the study.

The study appears in this month's issue of the journal Current Anthropology. It was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Rudzik did not declare any conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
February 9, 2012
Last Updated:
February 9, 2012