Most new mothers in the United States try to breastfeed their babies, but new research shows that those who report early concerns or problems with breastfeeding are nearly 10 times more likely to abandon the effort within two months.

The study, published online Sept. 23, 2013, in Pediatrics, reports that 92 percent of new moms reported at least one breastfeeding concern three days after birth.  Difficulties with “latching on” were the most predominant concern, reported by 52 percent of mothers. Other common concerns included breastfeeding pain (44 percent of mothers) and milk quantity (40 percent of mothers).

“Breastfeeding problems were a nearly universal experience in the group of first-time mothers in our study, with some of the most common problems also being the most strongly associated with stopping breastfeeding,” says Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, PhD, a researcher in the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children’s and lead investigator of the study.  “Priority should be given to enacting strategies for lowering the overall occurrence of breastfeeding problems and, in particular, targeting support for mothers with infant feeding or milk quantity concerns within the first week after leaving the hospital.”

The research team also included Kathryn Dewey, PhD, and Caroline Chantry, MD, at the University of California Davis Medical Center, and Erin Wagner, a clinical research coordinator at Cincinnati Children’s. 

They conducted six interviews with 532 first-time mothers, beginning in pregnancy, then at three, seven 14, 30 and 60 days after giving birth. Concerns reported at days three and seven postpartum were strongly associated with subsequently stopping breastfeeding, Nommsen-Rivers says.

“Our findings indicate helping mothers meet their breastfeeding goals requires a two-pronged approach: Strengthening protective factors, such as prenatal breastfeeding education and peer support, and ensuring that any concerns that do arise are fully addressed with professional lactation support, especially in those first few days at home.