We’ve been told for years that breast milk is best, but University of Queensland researchers have found that this narrative is out of touch. They found that only a third of mothers breastfed exclusively in the first three months.
And mothers who report problems with feeding their babies often suffer from postnatal depression because of the societal pressure to do so.
The study included 2,900 women with more than 5,300 children. The authors discovered 34 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfeed to six months.
Lead researcher Dr Katrina Moss said mothers primarily stopped breastfeeding because of milk shortages or breastfeeding difficulties, such as latching and mastitis. This is the inflammation of breast tissue that can lead to infection.
“Mothers can feel intense pressure to breastfeed, but breastfeeding isn’t best for everyone,” Moss said.
The researchers say compassion and evidence-led information for the mother needs to play a bigger role in the breastfeeding debate.
“Feeding difficulties can increase the risk of perinatal anxiety and depression, which is experienced by up to 20 per cent of mothers,” Moss said.
The study, published in the Journal of Human Lactation, advocated for mothers to be given evidence-based information about natural fluctuations in breastmilk production.
It said they should also be given information on how to safely formula feed, and how to recognise cues that their baby is ready for solids.