Did your pregnancy take you by surprise? Then here's another surprise: your answer to this question may play a role in how long you breastfeed your baby.
Women who actively try to become pregnant are much more likely to breastfeed their babies past the three-month mark than moms who say their pregnancies are unplanned or accidental, according to a study from Brazil. Just how much does planning (or not planning) pregnancy count when it comes to breastfeeding rates among new moms? Turns out, a lot.
"Women who had a baby after an unplanned pregnancy were 10 times as likely to regularly feed the baby foods other than breast milk by 12 weeks compared to women whose pregnancies were planned," says Alanna Rudzik, an anthropologist at Durham University in the UK and the study's author.
Moms in Rudzik's study were interviewed once before giving birth, and every two weeks afterward until the 12-week mark. Women were asked how they felt about their pregnancies and how they viewed breastfeeding. "Negative feelings that women have about unplanned pregnancy … incline them to [feel] strongly ambivalent towards breastfeeding," Rudzik says. "The interviews showed that women who had not planned to become pregnant had difficulty accepting their new role as a mother, and this expressed itself in part through strong resistance to the extremely close physical connection required by breastfeeding."
Women whose pregnancies were unplanned were also more likely to complain that breastfeeding felt physically unpleasant or was somehow physically difficult.
In the midst of an unplanned pregnancy? Talk to your doctor and midwife about any unresolved feelings you may have now—and then follow up after your baby is born. Rudzik hopes her research helps doctors, hospitals, and lactation consultants better support all new moms as they begin breastfeeding.