Breastfeeding shame holds Fraser Coast mums back

HERVEY Bay mum Kristy-Lee Benson feels proud when she breastfeeds her two-year-old son, Jack, but some Fraser Coast mothers are so self-conscious that they stop producing milk.

A new study from the University of the Sunshine Coast Fraser Coast campus has found a link between a new mum's body confidence and their ability to breastfeed.

The joint study by biomedical scientist Ruth Newby and director of Brisbane's children's nutritional research centre Professor Peter Davies showed 50% of women who are overweight will stop breastfeeding in less than six months, compared to 18% of slimmer mothers.

Kristy-Lee gained weight during her pregnancy and said she could understand why mothers became self-conscious.

"I put on 50kg when I was pregnant and I am overweight, but for me being able to breast feed was something I'm proud of," Kristy-Lee said. "But I know other women who feel a bit more shy."

She said while the general community was supportive of breastfeeding mothers, she has been given "weird looks" while feeding in public.

More than 500 first-time Queensland mothers were surveyed to determine if social and behavioural factors influenced a switch earlier to infant formula.

Dr Newby said the study found many obese pregnant women did not expect to feel comfortable breastfeeding in front of others.

"They were more likely to stop feeding before normal weight women," Dr Newby said.

"The more significant finding is that many more overweight women expected they would be uncomfortable if close friends of both sexes were present compared to smaller women."

There has been a Twitter debate surrounding the celebrity chef's recent comments to a British media outlet LBC about breastfeeding being "better" and preventing cancer.

Many mothers and midwives criticised Jamie over Twitter, saying his comments made women feel guilty about their choices.

The joint study by Dr Newby and Director of Brisbane's children's nutritional research centre Professor Peter Davies shows a connection between new mothers, specifically those who are overweight, can feel too self-conscious to feed their babies.

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More than 500 first-time mothers from Queensland were surveyed for the study.

"We found that many obese pregnant women did not expect to feel comfortable breastfeeding in front of others and, once their babies were born, were more likely to stop feeding before normal weight women," Dr Newby said.

"When we asked these expectant mothers how they anticipated feeling when breastfeeding in front of others, almost half said they expected to be embarrassed if there were strangers present.

"The more significant finding is that many more overweight women expected they would be uncomfortable if close friends of both sexes were present compared to smaller women."

With Australian infant feeding guidelines recommending that infants are breastfed exclusively until six months of age, the research paper recommends further investigation into the reasons for the rapid decline in breastfeeding rates among obese mothers.

"Steps should also be taken to address body images issues before women have their babies, with specific training to assist health professionals to identify those at risk," Dr Newby said.

The findings were gathered in the Feeding Queensland Babies Study, a longitudinal study by the Children's Nutrition Research Centre, that followed the infant feeding attitudes and habits of almost 500 first-time Queensland mothers from pregnancy until their child turned two years old. 


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