Why mothers in underserved populations stop breastfeeding

April 24, 2001

New Haven, Conn. - Most women in underserved populations do not continue breastfeeding after four months because they lack the confidence they will do so, and they think their infants prefer formula, a study by Yale researchers shows.

Of the 64 women who participated in the study, 27 percent had discontinued breastfeeding after one week; 37 percent after two weeks; 70 percent after two months, and by four months, 89 percent of the mothers had stopped breastfeeding their infants.

All of the mothers were eligible for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, and most had already enrolled. WIC provides special supplemental foods, nutritional counseling, and breastfeeding support and education to low income women and their children, up to five years old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding through the first year of life.

John Leventhal, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, is senior author of the study published in a recent issue of the journal Pediatrics. The principal investigator on the study was Ilgi Ertem, M.D., who at the time was a developmental-behavioral fellow at Yale working with Leventhal.

Leventhal said the women who stopped breastfeeding did not do so because they lacked knowledge about breastfeeding or because they experienced difficulty doing so.

"When asked about their confidence that they would continue breastfeeding until the infant was two months of age, almost half of the women stated that the chances that they would still be breastfeeding were low," he said.

Yet most of the women also said they wanted to breastfeed for up to six months to help protect their babies against illness, to provide them with the best natural food and nutrition, and for the psychological benefits to the children.

Based on these results, Leventhal said, mothers should be encouraged to talk about their doubts and the reasons for the discrepancy between what they want for their children's nutrition and what they believe they will actually do.

The majority of the mothers also said the babies preferred breast milk, but nearly 40 percent said the infants enjoyed formula milk more.

The issue of whether the infants prefer formula more than breast milk was unrelated to the mother's confidence about continuing to breastfeed. "It may be that a newborn's early behavior at the breast may shape a mother's perception of whether her baby enjoys breastfeeding," Leventhal said. "The infant's cues and what the infant wants need to be discussed to dispel the myth that infants like formula better."

He said the results of the study demonstrate that interventions aimed at prolonging the duration of breastfeeding will need to shift focus from increasing knowledge and managing problems of lactation to enhancing the mother's confidence regarding breastfeeding, while also addressing beliefs regarding an infant's preferences.
The other researcher on the study in addition to Leventhal and Ertem was Nancy Votto, R.N., clinical researcher in internal medicine and endocrinology.

Yale University

Related Breastfeeding Articles from Brightsurf:

New guidelines say breastfeeding is safe after anaesthesia
New guidelines published by the Association of Anaesthetists in the journal Anaesthesia, to coincide with the start of World Breast Feeding Week (1-7 August) say that breastfeeding is safe after the mother has had anaesthesia, as soon as she is alert and able to feed.

New protocol on breast cancer and breastfeeding
Managing women with breast cancer who are breastfeeding is a complex issue.

Is it safe to vape while breastfeeding?
Findings from a new animal study suggest that maternal nicotine exposure during breastfeeding could be linked to problems with skull and face development.

Breastfeeding benefits during COVID-19
While the current coronavirus pandemic continues to affect all people, families will still give birth and bring new life into the world.

Breastfeeding and risks of allergies and asthma
In an Acta Paediatrica study, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 3 months was linked with a lower risk of respiratory allergies and asthma when children reached 6 years of age.

Coronavirus treatment and risk to breastfeeding women
Little data is available about the ability of antiviral drugs used to treat COVID-19, coronavirus, to enter breastmilk, let alone the potential adverse effects on breastfeeding infants.

Managing cannabis use in breastfeeding women
As more states legalize medicinal and recreational cannabis use and increasingly decriminalize cannabis, the risk to the growth and development of breastfeeding infants whose mothers use cannabis becomes a growing public health concern.

New recommendations released on bedsharing to promote breastfeeding
Leading experts representing The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) have released new evidence-based recommendations regarding the benefits and risks of bedsharing for mother-infant pairs who have initiated breastfeeding and are in home settings.

Apps help with breastfeeding -- at a cost
Mobile phone apps are increasingly being used to support breastfeeding decisions - sometimes at a cost, a Flinders University study indicates.

Breastfeeding disparities among us children by race/ethnicity
Overall rates of breastfeeding increased from 2009 to 2015 but they varied by race/ethnicity in this observational study that used national survey data for nearly 168,000 infants in the United States.

Read More: Breastfeeding News and Breastfeeding Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.