Advising women to breastfeed exclusively for six months may be "unhelpful" and far too idealistic, suggests a qualitative study of new mothers, their partners, and close relatives, published in the online journal BMJ Open.
Exclusive breastfeeding for six months is known to confer considerable health benefits for mother and baby, and many governments around the world endorse the World Health Organization recommendations to do so.
But more realistic, incremental, and achievable goals should be set instead, particularly in countries that have struggled to meet targets to boost breastfeeding rates, which include the UK and the US say the authors.
They base their conclusions on 220 face to face interviews with 36 women, all but one of whom planned to breastfeed their babies, plus 26 partners, eight mothers, one sister and two healthcare professionals.
These were carried out at roughly four week intervals in a bid to find out participants' views on infant feeding from the last month of pregnancy until six months after birth, and what impact feeding practice had on the wider family.
The principal theme to emerge was the mismatch between the represented ideal of six months of exclusive breastfeeding; timely and appropriate support from partner, family, and fully trained healthcare professionals, and the reality experienced.
One woman said: "I think a reality check actually would be good, because they [healthcare professionals] make it sound so easy." Another said that breastfeeding was promoted "as a lovely bonding experience," which made her feel guilty, because that's not what she had.
And another woman commented: "It all seems to be 'don't ever do anything that would interfere with breastfeeding,' it's all got to be very purist, which is fine, but it just doesn't fit in with the rest of your life.I think people just give up because it's too difficult."
Partners particularly expressed fru
|Contact: Stephanie Burns|
BMJ-British Medical Journal