Brown A, Raynor P, Lee M. Young mothers who choose to breast feed: the importance of being part of a supportive breast-feeding community. Midwifery. 2011 Feb 28;27(1):53-9.
Why do the research?
Lots of research shows that younger mothers are less likely to breastfeed. Reasons include a lack of support from partners, not knowing anyone else who has breastfed and body image issues. However, not all mothers who have their baby at an early age choose to formula feed. Some breastfeed, and for a long duration. The aim of this research was to understand what helped these mums to breastfeed and whether we could learn lessons for supporting other young mums to breastfeed too.
Who took part?
138 mothers with a baby aged 6 – 24 months old who were aged between 17 and 24 years.
What did they do?
All mothers completed a questionnaire about their experiences of feeding their baby. Ten mothers who breastfed for at least six months took part in an interview exploring their experiences of breastfeeding
What did we find?
We looked at the differences in experiences of mothers who breastfed at all compared to those who used formula milk from birth. Those who breastfed were less likely to believe breastfeeding was embarrassing or that most people formula fed these days and more likely to believe breastfeeding was better for babies health.Mothers who breastfed were more likely to have friends or family that had breastfed, to have a supportive partner, have been breastfed themselves and have attended antenatal classes.
Looking at the experiences of mothers who breastfed for at least six months, mothers had
- A longstanding intention to breastfeed
- Saw breastfeeding as natural and normal
- Believed breastfeeding was easier and more enjoyable
- Felt comfortable breastfeeding their baby
- Had a supportive partner and family
What does this mean?
The environment surrounding a new mother is more important than simply her age. Younger mothers are less likely to be part of an environment that supports breastfeeding or sees it as normal. To enable younger mothers to breastfeed we need to create this supportive environment for them, with peer support, breastfeeding support groups and helping them to see the benefits and normality of breastfeeding.
You can download a copy of the paper here, although it is a late draft of the paper as the final version is eluding me: young mothers who choose to breastfeed