(RxWiki News) Many studies have established the health benefits of breastfeeding for both babies and mothers. But less attention has been paid to a mother’s emotional experience with breastfeeding.
A recent study found that the vast majority of mothers who breastfed were satisfied with the experience despite the fact that, on average, the women generally did not nurse for more than five months.
"Breastfeed your baby at least six months."
The study, led by José Labarère, MD, of the Quality of Care Unit at Grenoble University Hospital in France, sought to learn how satisfied mothers were with their breastfeeding experience, even if they did not breastfeed for long.
Because the study was based in France, it's possible that the results may not precisely reflect American women's experiences, but they are still likely to provide reliable insights into the experience for women in general in Western, developed countries.
The researchers studied 907 mothers who breastfed in total for an average of 18 weeks (about 4.5 months), which is shorter than the 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding and 12 months of breastfeeding with solids, that's recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians and the two years recommended by the World Health Organization.
The researchers followed up with these women six months after they gave birth. A total of 822, or 91 percent of them, rated their breastfeeding experience as "very or fairly satisfactory."
The most common response, among 70 percent of the women, was "very satisfied."
The only women who appeared to take into account how long they breastfed in determining how they perceived their experience were those who breastfed for less than 2 months.
Among these women, 85 percent of those who had planned to breastfeed 2 months or less were satisfied with their experience. But among those who had planned to breastfeed for longer than 4 months in this group, only 70 percent were satisfied with their experience.
The women least likely to be satisfied with their experience were smokers or women who had breastfeeding difficulties after being discharged from the hospital after giving birth.
For the most part, then, the length of time a woman ends up breastfeeding is not necessarily related to how happy she is with her experience.
The researchers concluded that it may help for a lactation consultant to be aware of what a mother's expectations and intentions are to help guide her through successful breastfeeding of her child and finding the experience satisfactory.
They note that the main reason most women discontinue breastfeeding is because they return to work.
The study was published in the May issue of the Journal of Human Lactation. The research was funded by grants from the French Ministry of Health and Grenoble University Hospital. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.