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Moms Call Push to Breastfeed for Six Months ‘Unhelpful’

George Doyle/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- While most moms would like to follow the World Health Organization's recommendations to breastfeed their babies for the first six months, a new study suggests many find the goal unrealistic, and the push to do so unhelpful.

"There are many competing demands on new parents: lack of sleep, crying, unsettled babies, other children to look after, and work commitments," said Dr. Pat Hoddinott of the University of Aberdeen, U.K., who lead the study published in the journal BMJ Open.  "Families very carefully weigh of long term benefits of breastfeeding with the family's immediate wellbeing."

The study, based on series of interviews with new parents, revealed a mismatch between expectations and the reality of infant feeding -- one that leaves mothers feeling guilty.

"It puts a lot of strain on new families," Hoddinott said.  "Instead of stating the World Health Organization guidelines, we should be telling women to breastfeed as long as they can.  There's accumulating evidence that breastfeeding for as long as possible has heath benefits for both mother and baby."

Breastfeeding may be natural, but it's far from easy, according to Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.

"On one hand, it's better for the baby to breastfeed.  On the other hand, you don't want it to interfere with the relationship between you and your baby or the rest of your family," she said.  "I wish people had adequate support so they didn't feel like they had to make a choice."

On top of the guilt, Greenfield said some moms feel judged by their peers who could keep breastfeeding for the recommended six months.

While the country is becoming more breastfeeding friendly, new moms still struggle to find the support they need to keep it up for the recommended six months.  In January 2011, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin released a "Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding" -- a plan to promote breastfeeding at work, at home and in the community.

But according to Hoddinott's study, some parents "view breastfeeding promotion as 'propaganda' and suggest that the 'breast is best message' has been overdone."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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