The World Health Organization and other health groups advise women to breastfeed exclusively until their babies are 6 months old. But that recommendation is "unhelpful" and far too idealistic, suggests a study of new mothers.
Researchers, reporting in the online British Medical Journal Open, concluded setting more realistic, achievable goals is a better alternative -- particularly in countries like the United States that have struggled to boost breastfeeding rates.
For the study, researchers conducted more than 200 interviews with 35 women, who planned to breastfeed their babies, before and after they gave birth -- along with their partners, mothers and others. Researchers said they found women tended to overestimate how long they would actually breastfeed -- a “mismatch between the represented ideal of six months of exclusive breastfeeding” and “the reality experienced.”
Some mothers said they felt "pressured" to breastfeed, and found an all or nothing approach to breastfeeding unhelpful. Some also said during “pivotal points” after the babies were born – when they cry at length or can’t sleep, for instance -- changing the mode of feeding was one way to manage.
Researchers concluded more attention should be paid to realistic "rather than idealistic goals," and urged healthcare professionals to acknowledge there are many ways to feed a baby safely.