For moms who want to breastfeed, there are plenty of road blocks that can make that goal more difficult to achieve; terrible maternity benefits, cracked nipples, body issues, medical problems, etc. Well ladies, there might be another thing ruining breastfeeding for you – your terrible social abilities. At least that is the conclusion that one study has come to.
According to a study by Dr. Amy Brown of Swansea University, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, shy women may be less likely to breastfeed their children due to social anxiety, and may choose other alternatives such as baby formula, turpentine, malt liquor, etc.
Or actually, just formula, but you wouldn’t know that from the alarmist reporting found on the few sites that reported on this study. Like this quote from the Daily Mail:
In what is thought to be the first study to look at the link between a woman’s personality and breastfeeding, introverts were found to be self-conscious about feeding their babies and were therefore more likely to turn to alternatives, such as formula milk, which are less beneficial to babies.
The study, which examined the personalities of over 600 moms with babies six to 12 months old, found that mothers who are considered introverts or who were anxious or stressed out found nursing more difficult. According to Brown:
“The important message from the findings is that some mothers may face more challenges with breast-feeding based on their wider personality. Although they may want to breast-feed, more introverted or anxious mothers may need further support in boosting their confidence and learning about how to solve problems, and they may need encouragement to make sure they access the breast-feeding support services that are available.”
While I agree that women who want to nurse should get more support, I find this study questionable. First of all, being shy and being an introvert are two separate things. I consider myself an introvert but certainly not shy.
Then there is the tired trope that extroverts are better than introverts. Wanting a little more quiet time than the average person somehow makes us defective. Dr. Brown goes as far as saying that women need “a list of things they could politely tell their mother-in-law when they tell them to get the bottle.” Essentially, because these ladies aren’t assertive enough in their parenting and therefore need a list of comebacks. So being an introvert suddenly makes us bad parents now too?
According to her page on the Swansea University website, Dr. Brown is the Programme Director, BSc Early Childhood Studies. But even a casual look at her published work would suggest that she is far from objective on the matter of breastfeeding and child nutrition. She also teaches classes such as “Child Health and Welfare”, “Working and Families” and “Food and Nutrition.”
It’s undoubtedly important that new moms get the support they need to be able to breastfeed successfully. But we all know that this isn’t always feasible. And what women don’t need is another doctor lambasting them for choosing not to nurse and telling them that it’s all in their head and they’re just “too shy.”