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J Hum Lact. 1995 Sep;11(3):179-83.

The social consequences of long-term breastfeeding.


This study examined the social consequences for mothers of long-term breastfeeding in a non-supportive culture, and how mothers learned to cope with negative reactions and comments from others. One hundred seventy-nine women who were recruited from La Leche League area conferences nationwide from 1989 to 1991 completed a self-administered closed-ended questionnaire which asked about their breastfeeding and weaning experiences. The percentage of mothers who cited "social stigma" as a negative aspect of breastfeeding increased dramatically as the age of the child increased; 29 percent cited social stigma for breastfeeding past six months, 44 percent for breastfeeding past 12 months, and 61 percent for breastfeeding past 24 months. In spite of the social stigma, the women cited more positive aspects for breastfeeding (M = 6.18 aspects) than they did negative aspects (M = .85 aspects). The positive aspects of breastfeeding emphasized the strong emotional bond between mother and child, and the emotional benefits they both received. Mother-to-mother support, spousal support, and a woman's own sense of confidence were important buffers against the criticism of others. And while the criticism of others was likely to cause negative feelings, the mothers reported that it had very little impact on their breastfeeding behaviors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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