Lansinoh Moms' Club
Moms Want to Breastfeed But Feel Unprepared, Unsupported
New survey underscores need for more realistic media portrayals of breastfeeding
The benefits of breastfeeding are well documented, and many mothers-to-be plan to breastfeed before their baby is born. But while breastfeeding is a wonderful experience for many moms, it does not come easily for everyone—and more than half of new moms feel unprepared for the breastfeeding experience, according to a new survey by Lansinoh.*
Not only do moms struggle with learning how to breastfeed and addressing common breastfeeding challenges, but they say they are disheartened by an unrealistic portrayal of breastfeeding in popular media.
The survey results paint a picture of moms’ conflicting views of breastfeeding, highlighting a need for more prenatal breastfeeding education while normalizing the ups and downs of the breastfeeding experience.
While the majority of women feel capable of caring for their babies in general, 57% of survey respondents said they were not prepared for the breastfeeding experience itself.
When asked what would help them feel more prepared to breastfeed, new moms pointed to three top solutions:
- 1. More realistic portrayal of breastfeeding (and postpartum) in the media and social media (53%)
- 2. More prenatal breastfeeding education (37%)
- 3. Better family leave benefits (35%)
In our survey, 81% of moms went as far as to say that breastfeeding is not realistically portrayed in popular media. A growing body of research has investigated the negative impact of social media on women’s body image. Idealized images on Instagram and other social media platforms have been linked to appearance comparison and low self-esteem, while realistic images have the potential to bolster women’s satisfaction with their bodies.1
Although many pregnant women take classes to prepare for childbirth and to learn about infant care, breastfeeding education often takes place after birth, when new moms are trying to breastfeed or already encountering challenges with breastfeeding.
As for family leave, the United States is the only industrialized country without a federal paid maternity leave policy, according to a recent analysis of family-friendly policies conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).2
Learning to breastfeed can take time for both mother and baby. Still, more than 50% of moms found this part of new motherhood to be more challenging than they expected. The top four challenges were:
- 1. Learning how to breastfeed in the beginning
- 2. The pain associated with breastfeeding
- 3. Pumping at work
- 4. Difficulty with tongue tie and/or the baby’s latch
The Lansinoh survey also reveals that this learning process begins anew with each birth, as 49% of second-time moms said they were not prepared for the breastfeeding experience. Nearly the same number (48%) said breastfeeding as a second-time mom was more difficult than they expected.
Previous research has shown that trouble latching is the #1 reason why mothers stop breastfeeding. Improper latching can contribute to other breastfeeding challenges, including nipple pain, ineffective milk transfer, and insufficient milk production.3 This concern may take hold before a new mom even begins breastfeeding, as 55% of those surveyed by Lansinoh said they were fearful of latching challenges.
There is an emotional component underlying the breastfeeding experience as well. In our survey, 70% of respondents said breastfeeding moms are not sufficiently supported by society. And yet, the pressure to breastfeed can leave them with feelings of guilt. When asked “Would you feel guilty if you did not breastfeed?” the majority of moms (74%) said yes.
When asked which one word best represented their breastfeeding experience, moms replied both positively and negatively with words like “bond,” “hard,” “rewarding,” “painful,” “stressful,” and “amazing.”
Perceptions Are Changing
Despite these challenges, breastfeeding perceptions and intentions appear to be trending in a positive direction. This is noteworthy because a mother’s stated intention to breastfeed is one of the strongest predictors that she will start breastfeeding3 – and yet, 60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they intend to.4
The 2021 survey is a follow-up to one distributed by Lansinoh six years ago. A comparison of the 2015 and 2021 surveys reveals two notable shifts among breastfeeding mothers and mothers who intend to breastfeed. One, moms’ perceptions of the ideal duration of breastfeeding has increased over time, with a noticeable rise in the number of moms who believe a baby should be breastfed for 12 months or longer, compared with six years ago.
Ideally, how long do you think a baby should be breastfed?
3-6 months down from 19% (2015) to 10% (2021)
12-24 months up from 26.2% (2015) to 37.4% (2021)
24 months+ up from 5.9% (2015) to 10% (2021)
12-24 months up from 21.4% (2015) to 32.9% (2021)
24 months+ up from 4% (2015) to 11.9% (2021)
Our latest survey also indicates an increase in exclusive breastfeeding (i.e., feeding infants breastmilk only, with no formula, water, juice, or solid foods). More new moms reported exclusively breastfeeding for 4-6 months (31% in 2021, up from 21% in 2015) and for more than 6 months (28% in 2021, up from 22% in 2015).
These findings reflect an evolving conversation around breastfeeding in the United States. For example, the national Healthy People 2030 initiative seeks to increase the proportion of infants who are exclusively breastfed at 6 months and still breastfed at 1 year.5 This goal is consistent with guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months and that breastfeeding continue, while introducing appropriate complementary foods, for 1 year or longer.6
*METHODOLOGY STATEMENT: Lansinoh designed the survey which was administered by HARK Research and reached 1,166 mothers. Mothers were recruited through social media and online panels. This report focuses on moms ages 18-45 who are currently pregnant and/or have at least one child, have breastfed or plan to breastfeed. The Lansinoh team analyzed the data, providing insights to trends and key findings reported here.
2 OECD Family Database, oe.cd/fdb