New research suggests a mother’s personality is a key factor in determining if she breastfeeds and how long she maintains the practice.
Investigators found that mothers who are more extroverted and less anxious are more likely to breastfeed and to continue to breastfeed than mothers who are introverted or anxious.
Experts say the new study provides valuable insight toward helping mothers with certain personalities. These moms may need additional support and education to help them feel confident, self-assured, and knowledgeable about breastfeeding.
The research is published early online in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
Experts acknowledge that breastfeeding is important for the health of both mother and baby. Studies have shown that breastfed babies have lower levels of infections and allergies and are less likely to be overweight, while mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop certain cancers.
Many factors can affect whether a mother breastfeeds, but mothers who have lots of support, feel confident, and know how to overcome problems are more likely to breastfeed for longer.
Understanding what makes a mother feel confident and supported is important to increasing breastfeeding rates.
Many studies have looked at the role of mothers’ education, age, and relationships, but the link between breastfeeding and a mother’s personality has not been explored.
In the new research, Amy Brown, Ph.D., of Swansea University in the United Kingdom, surveyed 602 mothers with infants aged six to 12 months old. The questionnaire examined the mothers’ personalities, how long they breastfed, and their attitudes and experiences of breastfeeding.
Data were collected between March and June 2009.
Mothers who indicated that they were extroverts and emotionally stable were significantly more likely to initiate and continue breastfeeding for a longer duration.
Mothers who were introverted or anxious were more likely to use formula milk or only breastfeed for a short while.
Brown believes that the findings can be explained by the link between mothers’ personalities and their attitudes and experiences of breastfeeding.
Mothers who were introverted felt more self-conscious about breastfeeding in front of others and were more likely to formula feed because other people wanted them to. Similarly, mothers who were anxious found breastfeeding difficult and felt that they couldn’t get the support they needed.
These factors are known to be linked to low breastfeeding rates.
“The important message from the findings is that some mothers may face more challenges with breastfeeding based on their wider personality.
“Although they may want to breastfeed, more introverted or anxious mothers may need further support in boosting their confidence and learning about how to solve problems, and they may need encouragement to make sure they access the breastfeeding support services that are available,” said Brown.