Young mothers who choose to breast feed: the importance of being part of a supportive breast-feeding community

Midwifery. 2011 Feb;27(1):53-9. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2009.09.004. Epub 2009 Nov 5.


Objective: to examine factors associated with breast-feeding initiation and duration in young mothers (≤24 years).

Design: a retrospective questionnaire completed between six and 24 months post partum.

Setting: mothers were recruited from local mother and infant groups, nurseries and online mother and infant forums.

Participants: 138 mothers aged between 17 and 24 years (mean age 21.93 years)

Measurements and findings: participants completed a retrospective questionnaire about their experience of breast or artificial milk feeding during the first six months post partum. A further 10 mothers who breast fed for at least six months completed a semi-structured interview. Breast feeding for at least six months was positively associated with attending a breast-feeding support group, believing breast feeding to be easy, being part of an environment where breast feeding is normative, and being encouraged to breast feed by others.

Key conclusions: themes raised highlight the importance of viewing breast feeding as the normal way to feed an infant and having others support the mother in this behaviour.

Implications for practice: increasing breast-feeding initiation and duration among this at-risk group is important for both infant and maternal health. Helping mothers to view breast feeding as the norm, creating an environment where breast feeding is accepted, providing professional and peer support, and encouraging the mother to continue breast feeding are important steps in raising breast-feeding rates among younger mothers.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Infant Care / methods
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult