RED BANK, NJ – A new national survey reveals the majority of mothers in the United States know breastfeeding is ideal for their babies and themselves but at the same time want the right to decide what works best for them and their families. The nationally representative survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR) in partnership with Public Opinion Strategies, sampled opinions from 876 mothers of children aged 12 months and younger throughout the country.
"The findings speak volumes," says Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, a registered nurse and executive director of HealthyWomen. "It's clear mothers recognize breastfeeding as the gold standard; however, they also were clear that they want a choice when it comes to feeding their infants."
The survey found that most mothers (83%) made their infant feeding decision prior to going to the hospital to give birth. The vast majority (82%) breastfed at some point during the first year; however, over half of the moms changed their baby's diet during the first year.
A key finding of the survey was that mothers want access to information on all infant feeding options. Three out of four moms believe new mothers should receive information on breastfeeding as well as infant formula so they can make an informed choice.
"This survey underscores the reality that when it comes to infant feeding, mothers want full information, flexibility, and choices," says Anna Greenberg, Senior Vice President of GQRR. "Mothers know what is best for their baby; but they also know that infant feeding is complex and they want the right to make their decision based on all available information and in an environment where mothers' choice is supported."
Mothers also identified a number of barriers that either prevented them from initiating or continuing breastfeeding, the most common of which include the inability to produce enough milk, returning to work, and problems associated with breastfeeding (e.g., sore or cracked nipples, engorged or leaking breasts, breasts infected or abscessed). Most mothers agree infant formula provides flexibility and choice, as well as a means of supplementing breastfeeding, when necessary.
"For those mothers who have to return to the workforce quickly," says Cahill, especially in the current economy, "flexibility and support is really important."
When asked what government actions could help increase breastfeeding in the U.S., mothers recommended support after leaving the hospital, including guaranteed paid or longer maternity leave, increased assistance from healthcare professionals, breastfeeding support in the workplace, and access to a breast pump. "It seems like these are areas where the government could support increased breastfeeding initiation and duration," adds Greenberg.
"We need to provide more support and education for breastfeeding moms while at the same time be supportive of those moms who cannot or choose not to breastfeed," says Cahill. "Mothers need to educate themselves and be supported whether their decision is to breastfeed or formula feed – they are both good choices," says Cahill.
About the Survey: Between May 17 and 28, 2009, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research interviewed a nationally representative sample of 876 mothers of children age 12 months or younger throughout the country. The sample was representative of the percent of U.S. mothers currently enrolled in the Government's Special Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the questions were polled in English. Mothers of multiples, premature babies and adopted babies were screened out, because these mothers may have special circumstances that uniquely influenced decisions about how to feed their children. The overall margin of error of this survey is +/- 3.31. This research was sponsored by the International Formula Council, an association of manufacturers and marketers of formulated nutrition products, including infant formula.
The not-for-profit HealthyWomen (HW) organization is the leading independent health information source for women. HW develops and distributes up-to-date and objective women's health information based on the latest advances in medical research and practice, all of which is reviewed by leading medical specialists in the field. HW believes all women should have access to the most trusted and reliable health information. Information empowers women to make the best decisions to maintain and improve their health and the health of their families.