A Queensland study has found that obese mothers are more likely to stop breastfeeding before other women, due to poor body image.

The study of first-time mothers found that half of the obese women involved stopped breastfeeding their newborns within six months, compared to 18 per cent of women with lower body fat.

Researchers also found one-in-four larger pregnant women believed they would feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of a close female friend – compared to 10 per cent of other expectant mums.  

“The (breastfeeding) attrition rate for the larger women was so surprising,” University of the Sunshine Coast researcher Dr Ruth Newby told AAP. “We are suggesting it might be a body image issue.”

When surveyed while they were pregnant, almost half of the women said they expected to feel embarrassed about breastfeeding in front of strangers.

Many more of the larger women involved in the study anticipated they would feel uncomfortable if both male and female friends were present and 25 per cent believing they would feel uneasy breastfeeding in front of a close female friend.

The research published this month, recommends further investigation into the rapid decline in breastfeeding rates among obese mothers.  

Dr Newby said the study showed there was a definite tipping point where issues affecting breastfeeding became insurmountable for larger women.

“Mums want to do the best thing for their babies and we need to support them to reach their breastfeeding goals,” she said.

The study was conducted with more than 250 Queensland women, who responded to an antenatal and six postnatal questionnaires between 2010 and 2012.


Image source: Shutterstock

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  • I wouldn’t have thought that at all. As a larger woman, my only thoughts are on what I am providing for my baby, not what I look like while I’m doing it! I would be more self conscious of my stomach (particularly since having my first c-section) than my breasts!


  • This is a bit sad, really .


  • We need more breastfeeding rooms and to not be judged so harshly in public. The stares and judgmental people will never make breastfeeding mothers feel accepted and comfortable to feed they’re babies. I personally never ever fed in public. I felt way too uncomfortable.


  • Interesting reading this – especially as the images used to “support” and “promote” breastfeeding are very beautiful images of beautifully dressed and made up women (aka MODELS) smiling into the faces of adoring babies. This was so NOT me at ever, and especially not me at times like waking to a screaming baby at 3am or when shopping, on public transport, at an airport… I was the ragged haired, baggy clothed frumpy mum.

    Breastfeeding campaigns need to continue to do the great work they do, and maybe provide more support through body images of women of all sizes and looks.


  • I’m not obese but already concerned about breastfeeding in front of others – even those who breast feed themselves. I still see my boobs as private parts that don’t need to be exposed. I’ll still breastfeed tho. Hopefully I will gain more confidence once baby arrives


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