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New Moms' Biggest Worry? Breast-Feeding, Study Says…

Breastfeeding mom's biggest worry, says study
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

It doesn't matter how much late-night Googling you do or how many parenting prep classes you take–there are always going to be a few curveballs thrown your way once your baby arrives. And according to a new study, most of the worries swirling around in a new mom's head tend to revolve around one thing and one thing only: breast-feeding.

In fact, 92 percent of moms who were surveyed just three days after giving birth were consumed with such worries. Am I getting enough milk? Is he really eating enough? WHY WON'T SHE LATCH ON!? (Yep, these probably sound all too familiar to you.) While the number of breast-feeding-related worries do seem to wane over time for most moms, the study found that an overwhelming amount of women continue to have hesitations and concerns about nursing in the following months—and this most often leads to a decision to give up breast-feeding altogether and switch to formula.

This may not sound like completely groundbreaking stuff to you. After all, chances are this exact scenario has happened to you or someone you know. But according to Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a pediatrician at Cooper University Hospital, these stats are actually pretty alarming, especially considering all the efforts that are currently being put into breast-feeding promotion at the hospital level.

The World Health Organization strongly urges moms to breast-feed exclusively, without any formula or solid food—at least until a baby is 6 months old. And yet, just 16 percent of babies breast-feed exclusively each year until that six-month mark.

How come?

"My sense is in my gut that the ability for moms to find adequate breast-feeding support in the community is very variable and in many communities nonexistent," Feldman-Winter said, speaking with Reuters Health. "We're going to have many women really wanting to breast-feed and encountering difficulties."

The specific worries new moms expressed in the survey ranged from dealing with nipple pain to handling their baby's refusal to eat. In total, the moms raised about 49 unique breast-feeding concerns a total of 4,179 times. As a result, between 20 and 50 percent of those surveyed stopped breast-feeding altogether or supplemented with formula far sooner than they had planned to when they were pregnant. What's more, new moms who voiced concerns by day three were actually three times as likely to switch to formula after two months, and nine times as likely to stop breast-feeding completely.

And as study author Laurie A. Nommsen-Rivers told Reuters Health, she thinks that's a real shame; especially because most of those moms could be helped, if only someone stepped in. "If we are able to provide mothers with adequate support," she says, "ninety-five percent of all breast-feeding problems are reversible."

But above all, Nommsen-Rivers said, the end goal for health professionals is to let new moms know "they're not alone, and it's really common to struggle in those first few days."

Do the study's findings surprise you at all? Or not really?

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