New research has found that pressuring new mothers who are struggling to breastfeed can have a detrimental impact on their mental health.
Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have dubbed the classic “breast is best” rhetoric, often pushed on new mums, “outdated”, revealing that very few mothers exclusively breastfeeding their children up until the six month mark and that almost half rely on formula supplements.
According to longitudinal study, published in the Journal of Human Lactation, just 34% of mums feed their baby with breast milk only when they’re less than six months old.
According to lead researcher Dr Katrina Moss, many mums stray from breastfeeding because they struggle to get their child to latch on, suffer from milk shortages or from painful cases of mastitis – an infection in the breast tissue, often caused by a blocked milk duct.
Dr Moss explained that the idea that breastfeeding is the best option for giving a baby optimum health is unhelpful for many mothers, with a large percentage suffering from mental health issues as a result of breastfeeding struggles.
“Mothers can feel intense pressure to breastfeed, but breastfeeding isn’t best for everyone,” she said.
“If mothers run into breastfeeding problems they may need to supplement or stop. Feeding difficulties can increase the risk of perinatal anxiety and depression, which is experienced by up to 20% of mothers.
“The majority of mothers don’t exclusively breastfeed, usually for very good reasons, and the support they receive needs to reflect this,” she added, urging health organisations to offer support to mothers choosing not to breastfeed.
“This study highlights the need for personalised support specific to each mother’s situation.”
She also highlighted that the debate surrounding breast and bottle feeding is far less clear cut than just picking one or the other, adding, “Feeding messages have been polarised between breastfeeding and formula, but in reality, it’s not that simple.”