Body Shape and Weight Loss as Motivators for Breastfeeding Initiation and Continuation

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Jul 11;14(7):754. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14070754.


Breastfeeding rates in the UK are low. Efforts to promote breastfeeding typically include the known health benefits for mother and child, many of which are not immediate. Gaining immediate benefits can be effective motivators of behaviour. Body-related changes resulting from breastfeeding could be an immediate benefit. This study explored breastfeeding mothers' reports of body-related changes as benefits of breastfeeding. Mothers (N = 182) who currently, or had recently, breastfed an infant completed a survey detailing their infant feeding choices and the perceived benefits of breastfeeding on their bodies. Half of the mothers felt that breastfeeding had a positive effect on their body. Benefits were grouped into five themes: (1) Returning to pre-pregnancy body shape; (2) Health benefits; (3) Physical benefits; (4) Eating benefits; (5) Psychological benefits. These themes highlight the numerous body-related benefits that mothers identified as resulting from breastfeeding and suggest that immediate, personal, and appearance-related gains of breastfeeding are highly valued. These findings indicate that interventions would likely benefit from emphasising the more immediate physical and psychological benefits of breastfeeding, alongside the health and bonding benefits, as a way to promote breastfeeding initiation and continuation in more women. This may be particularly effective for groups such as young mothers, where breastfeeding rates are low and whose emphasis on body image may be greater.

Keywords: behaviour change; benefits; body image; breastfeeding; breastfeeding continuation; breastfeeding initiation; promotion; psychological.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Image
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Motivation
  • Pregnancy
  • Weight Loss*
  • Young Adult