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Early breast-feeding problems increase likelihood of stopping

Tuesday September 24, 2013
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Mothers who report early concerns or problems with breast-feeding are nearly 10 times more likely to abandon breast-feeding within two months, according to a study.

In the study, published Sept. 23 on the website of the journal Pediatrics, 92% of new moms reported at least one breast-feeding concern three days after birth. The most commonly cited concern, in 52% of mothers, was difficulty with infant feeding at the breast, which refers to the behavior of the baby, such as not “latching on” properly. Other common concerns included breastfeeding pain (44% of mothers) and milk quantity (40%).

“Breast-feeding problems were a nearly universal experience in the group of first-time mothers in our study, with some of the most common problems also being the most strongly associated with stopping breast-feeding,” Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, PhD, a researcher in the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and lead investigator of the study, said in a news release.

“Priority should be given to enacting strategies for lowering the overall occurrence of breast-feeding problems and, in particular, targeting support for mothers with infant feeding or milk quantity concerns within the first week after leaving the hospital.”

The researchers conducted a series of six interviews with 532 first-time mothers, beginning in pregnancy and also at three, seven 14, 30 and 60 days after giving birth.

The researchers received reports of thousands of breast-feeding problems and concerns. Those concerns reported at interviews conducted at days three and seven postpartum were strongly associated with subsequently stopping breast-feeding, according to Nommsen-Rivers.

“This may be related to the fact that these interviews captured a time when there is often a gap between hospital and community lactation support resources,” Nommsen-Rivers said. “Our findings indicate helping mothers meet their breast-feeding goals requires a two-pronged approach: Strengthening protective factors, such as prenatal breast-feeding education and peer support, and ensuring that any concerns that do arise are fully addressed with professional lactation support, especially in those first few days at home.”

The 8% of mothers who did not report any breast-feeding problems or concerns at day three seemed to have protective factors that prevented them from experiencing concerns that led to formula use, Nommsen-Rivers said. These factors include prenatal self-confidence about breast-feeding, youth, unmedicated vaginal birth and strong social support.

Study abstract: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/09/18/peds.2013-0724.abstract.


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