Mothers who are more outgoing and less anxious are more likely to breastfeed compared with introvert or anxious mothers, according to a study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Dr. Amy Brown, of Swansea University in the UK, says the research revealed that new mothers with particular personalities may need additional support and knowledge before feeling confident about breastfeeding their babies.

The study involved 602 mothers with infants aged between 6 and 12 months.

The mothers were asked to complete a self-report questionnaire that analyzed five major personality traits:

  • Openness to experience (preference for novelty, variety and intellectual curiosity)
  • Extraversion (sociability, assertiveness and talkativeness)
  • Agreeableness (helpfulness, co-operation and sympathetic tendencies)
  • Conscientiousness (discipline, organization and achievement orientation)
  • Emotional stability (on levels of anxiety and impulse control).

Breastfeeding data was also collected. Mothers were asked to indicate whether they initiated breastfeeding at birth, how long they have breastfed for, and whether they are still breastfeeding.

The mothers who described themselves as extroverts and who were emotionally stable were more likely to initiate breastfeeding and continue to do so for a longer period.

However, mothers who suffered from anxiety or who were more introverted were more likely to breastfeed for short periods or use formula milk.

Additionally, introverted mothers were more self-conscious about breastfeeding in public, and revealed they were more likely to bottle-feed because of other people’s demands.

Anxious mothers found it more difficult to breastfeed and felt they were lacking support.

Dr. Amy Brown says the important message from the findings is that some mothers could face difficult challenges with breastfeeding based on their wider personality. She says:

Although they may want to breastfeed, more introverted or anxious mothers may need further support in boosting their confidence and learning about how to solve problems.

They may need encouragement to make sure they access the breastfeeding support services that are available.”

Dr. Brown suggests that if health professionals can further understand the relationship between maternal characteristics of extraversion, emotional stability and conscientiousness, and the impact this could have on breastfeeding, then they may able to better target their support.

Recent research has linked breastfeeding to benefits. A study from Boston Children’s Hospital suggests breastfeeding for longer “improves children’s intelligence.”

Other research from Tel-Aviv University even suggests breastfeeding may help prevent ADHD.

Perhaps positive findings such as these are having an impact on the numbers of mothers breastfeeding. Recent US statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show breastfeeding has been increasing in the US, and continues to do so.