Maternal trait personality and breastfeeding duration: the importance of confidence and social support

J Adv Nurs. 2014 Mar;70(3):587-98. doi: 10.1111/jan.12219. Epub 2013 Aug 6.


Aim: To explore associations among breastfeeding duration, maternal personality and maternal attitudes and experiences of breastfeeding.

Background: Understanding influences on breastfeeding initiation and duration is critical to increasing breastfeeding rates and supporting new mothers. Maternal characteristics such as self-efficacy, knowledge and confidence are known to enable women to breastfeed, but little is known about the influence of maternal trait personality on breastfeeding.

Design: An exploratory cross-sectional survey.

Method: A total of 602 mothers with an infant aged 6-12 months old completed a self-report questionnaire examining maternal trait personality, breastfeeding duration and attitudes and experiences of breastfeeding. Data were collected between March-June 2009.

Results: Mothers who reported high levels of extraversion, emotional stability and conscientiousness were significantly more likely to initiate and continue breastfeeding for a longer duration. Attitudes and experiences significantly associated with these personality traits such as perceived difficulties and lack of support may explain these patterns. For example, characteristics associated with introversion and anxiety may prevent women from seeking support or challenging negative attitudes of others at this critical time.

Conclusion: Understanding the influence of maternal personality may thus be a useful tool in antenatal support to recognize women who may need extra, directed support while facilitating discussion of potential barriers to breastfeeding.

Keywords: breastfeeding; confidence; midwives; nursing; paediatrics; self-efficacy; social support; trait personality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Personality*
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Social Support*

Associated data

  • GENBANK/CD003517