Most new moms do not need to be told how important their relationship with their own mother (or other maternal figure) is as they embark on this new stage of life. But in April 2016 authors Joel Negin, Jenna Coffman, Pavle Vizintin and Camille Rayes-Greenow published a research literature review demonstrating the significant impact grandmothers can have on the breastfeeding success of their daughter and grandchild.
Particularly in lower income communities and countries, grandmothers are an important part of the family unit and may be viewed as the expert and authority when it comes to decisions regarding child rearing.
Despite this influence, the authors found that few global health studies directly examined the relationship between grandparents and infant outcomes. With this review, they sought to “quantify the impact of the grandmother on influencing a mother’s breastfeeding practices.”
A grandmother’s unfavorable opinion of breastfeeding could decrease a mother’s likeliness to breastfeed by 70%
A majority of the included studies, looking at social factors impacting breastfeeding in various countries, “found that there was a significant positive impact on breastfeeding when grandmothers of the infants had had their own breastfeeding experience or were positively inclined towards breastfeeding, resulting in effects of between 1.6 to 12.4 times more likely to exclusively breastfeed or refrain from introducing solid food…” Perhaps even more illuminating was the authors’ finding that a grandmother’s unfavorable opinion of breastfeeding could decrease a mother’s likeliness to breastfeeding by 70%. While the range of impact was wide, it is clear that grandmothers exert a strong influence on the feeding outcomes of their babies.
The authors conclude that rather than just seeking to change the behavior of the mother, healthcare providers seeking to support mothers in breastfeeding should include grandmothers, and perhaps in particular effort to understand any traditional practices or beliefs that may be at odds with the evidence-based information being provided.
Full research article available at BioMed Central Pregnancy and Birth.
We would love to hear from you: What was the impact your mother had in your breastfeeding journey?
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