Our bodies change dramatically during pregnancy, and it bothers some women more than others. And now it’s believed that how much mums-to-be worry about their appearance influences their breastfeeding decisions.
In a study published in the Midwifery journal, researchers followed 128 women during pregnancy and until six months after birth. They found women who were more concerned about their body changes and diet during pregnancy were less likely to want to breastfeed, or to actually go ahead with breastfeeding after the birth.
And mums with higher body image concerns who stopped breastfeeding before six months were likely to have done so because they were embarrassed about their appearance or worried about the impact breastfeeding may have upon their breast shape.
“The findings are important to those working with women during pregnancy and the post-partum period in understanding the impact of body image upon intention and ability to initiate and continue breastfeeding,” the study says.
Study leader Dr Amy Brown, of Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences, says women’s feelings during pregnancy are driving their choices after their baby is born, rather than their actual experience of breastfeeding.
“It is likely that low confidence and anxiety about their appearance, potentially driven by the rise of celebrity culture and pressure to lose weight quickly after the birth, could be affecting choice to breastfeed,” she tells HealthCanal. “We need to raise awareness of positive body image during breastfeeding and reduce this unhealthy pressure on new mums to return to ‘normal’ and not look like they have been pregnant immediately after their baby is born.”