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November 4, 2000

Study: Women stop breast-feeding to please husbands

Anne Marie Owens
National Post

The number one reason mothers stop breast-feeding their babies is because they believe their husbands do not like it, a survey has revealed.

Women decide to opt for bottle-feeding because of "the mother's perception of the father's preference," according to the study.

Dr. Samir Arora, one of the authors of the study, said the women believe their husbands feel breast-feeding is ugly, unappealing, ruins the couple's sex life and renders the breast no longer sexual.

Dr. Arora had noted the behaviour of expectant couples when breast-feeding was raised. The woman picks up a pamphlet on breast-feeding and holds it up to the father who "just stands there, and the body language says it all," Dr. Arora said.

The study, in the medical journal Pediatrics, surveyed 245 new mothers at a Pennsylvania hospital.

About 40% of the women cited worries about their husbands as the reason not to breast-feed. The second-biggest reason was the influence of the women's mothers.

The survey found 44% of women started breast-feeding but more than a quarter switched to bottle-feeding by the time the baby was a month old. Only 13% were still breast-feeding at six months.

Dr. Arora worked on the survey when he was a resident at Hamet Medical Centre in Erie, Pa.

The study focused on the women's perception of their husbands' preference, not the husbands' actual reaction. The report's authors said previous studies found fathers had a more positive attitude than their partners expected.

Dr. Arora said the influence of the women's mothers was generational, as many of them would not have breast-fed their babies.

Dr. Arora said another surprise in the study was how early women made their decisions on breast-feeding. Seventy-eight per cent of those surveyed indicated they had made their decision about breast-feeding before the pregnancy or in the first trimester. Most of the medical community's information on breast-feeding is given to the mother shortly before birth or once the baby is born, Dr. Arora said.

He said the study should influence how health workers deal with expectant parents. Fathers should be included in the discussion about breast-feeding with the mother and campaigns should be aimed at winning husbands over much earlier in the pregnancy to the idea of breast-feeding.

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