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Breastfeeding – It’s All In The Mind

20 March 2003

If a woman makes up her mind that she wants to breastfeed before her baby is born, she will nearly always succeed

If a woman makes up her mind that she wants to breastfeed before her baby is born, she will nearly always succeed. That is the simple but heartening message from new research based on data from the Children of the 90s project, which has followed the development of 14,000 children from the womb.

There is mounting evidence of the health benefits of breastfeeding, but many women never attempt it. A good deal of research has pinpointed factors which may be associated with this.

For example, older mothers, non-smokers and those with higher levels of education and income and more likely to breastfeed.

However, this new research indicates that simply making the decision to breastfeed during pregnancy outweighs all these factors combined. 96.6% of woman who planned to breastfeed for at least four months managed to initiate breastfeeding. Of women who intended to bottle feed before birth, only 3.4% started to breastfeed.

The research also showed that the length of time women breastfed was largely dictated by the decisions they made before birth.

Those who intended to breastfeed for at least 4 months continued for 4.4 months on average, compared to 2.5 months for women who had intended to breastfeed for only one month.

This research is encouraging for both mothers and health professionals. It seems clear that women are in control. They cannot change their age or social class, but they can make the decision to breastfeed and see it through successfully.


1. Donath SM, Amir LH, ALSPAC Study Team. "The relationship between prenatal infant feeding intention and initiation and duration of breastfeeding: a cohort study." Acta Paediatrica 2003. doi 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2003.tb00558.x

2. ALSPAC The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (also known as Children of the 90s) is a unique ongoing research project based in the University of Bristol. It enrolled 14,000 mothers during pregnancy in 1991-2 and has followed most of the children and parents in minute detail ever since.


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