Mothers who expect to breastfeed may not realize that their attitude about it is important to successful breastfeeding. Although new mothers describe breastfeeding as a meaningful and fulfilling aspect of caring for their infants, breastfeeding can cause anxiety and stress.
Perception Is Key to Successful Breastfeeding
A mother’s desire to breastfeed is one of the strongest predictors for successful breastfeeding. Many women question their intention to breastfeed within the first few weeks postpartum. Why? The most common reason for stopping is not enough breast milk.
Lack of breast milk can be a perception by the mother rather than a fact. A mother’s opinion about an insufficient milk supply is connected to her self-confidence in meeting her infant’s needs.
How Can I Improve My Breastfeeding Self Confidence?
A strong support system for first-time mothers is essential for breastfeeding success. As a mother gains confidence in her problem-solving ability, she is more likely to master breastfeeding skills. Her belief that her infant will respond to her efforts, plus the support of others, increases her ability to breastfeed.
The medical term for this phenomenon is breastfeeding self-efficacy (BSE). Having a high BSE not only helps successful breastfeeding but can also help women emotionally adjust after delivery.
BSE and Postpartum Depression
A recent study evaluated BSE and mood in first-time mothers who began breastfeeding at two days, six weeks, and six months postpartum.
High BSE at two days postpartum predicted positive emotional adjustment and fewer depressive symptoms at six weeks postpartum. Exclusive breastfeeding at six months after giving delivery was more common among women who exhibited high BSE. Breastfeeding concerns were among the most frequently named reasons for stress, along with lack of sleep and social support.
These findings are consistent with a previous report that indicated postpartum depression was more common in women who attempted but struggled to breastfeed. Stopping breastfeeding earlier than the woman intended can be linked with a risk for depression. Postpartum depression was far more likely in those women who stopped because they struggled to continue due to pain, low milk production, problems with baby latching or sucking, breast infection than in those women who stopped breastfeeding for other reasons.
Don’t Underestimate Support
These studies underscore the importance of supporting mothers who choose to breastfeed. If health care providers support women to begin breastfeeding, the women may be able to nurse longer. Helping new mothers achieve success with breastfeeding may decrease stress and help build a stronger sense of confidence and competence, which may help reduce the risk for postpartum depression.
Health care providers at Creekside Center for Women strongly believe that supporting mothers in their efforts to breastfeed also means recommending or allowing them to stop breastfeeding when they are having considerable or unresolvable difficulties and helping them to feel comfortable with this decision. Frequently women feel ashamed and insufficient as mothers when they cannot or decide not to breastfeed.
All of us at Creekside Center for Women are here to assist women before and after delivery. Having a baby and being a new mom is stressful. If you have questions or concerns about breastfeeding, our International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, Ms. Samantha Corral, is available to help, as well as all our other impressive health care providers. Let us know how we can best serve you. 479.582.9268