Examining the relationship between female body image and breastfeeding intention, initiation and duration: A literature review
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Department of Midwifery, University of West Attica, Athens, Greece
Publication date: 2023-10-24
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Sevasti Louverdi   

Department of Midwifery, University of West Attica, Athens, Greece
Eur J Midwifery 2023;7(Supplement 1):A152
Breastfeeding is a natural experience that affects women's bodies. In particular, it has not been precisely investigated whether and to what extent women's concerns about their body image and the weight they gained during pregnancy are related to their desire and behavior towards breastfeeding. That is, could a positive body image that a mother has about her body influence her behavior towards breastfeeding? There are studies that have shown that body image plays a role in a woman's choice to breastfeed. Women with weight concerns may prioritize starting weight loss more quickly through dieting and trying to regain control of their body size and shape in the postpartum period. Calorie restriction, a key feature of weight loss efforts, can also make breastfeeding more difficult due to nutrient deficiencies in the woman's body. Thus, early restrictive dietary practices may prevent initiation of breastfeeding or contribute to early weaning.

To find articles relevant to the literature review, electronic databases such as PubMed and PsycINFO were searched using keywords from February to March 2023. All selected articles were screened for English language and full text accessibility text.

The literature review search identified 126 studies. Twenty-seven studies were reviewed in full text. Five studies were included. All participants were described as female, before, during and after pregnancy. Survey participants were mostly from hospitals or online. All the articles studied examined body image as a measure in various forms. A difference was found between pre-pregnancy body image and pregnancy body image at intention and during breastfeeding. Women with higher body image concerns were more likely to stop due to low breastfeeding confidence. In conclusion, it seems that the mother's intention for a better body image, after giving birth, is greater than her intention to breastfeed.

In conclusion, it was observed that psychosocial factors, such as women's concern about their body image after childbirth, are related to the initiation and duration of breastfeeding. However, the conclusions of this review were based on a small number of studies, so it is important to consider any limitations. Further research is needed to find other factors that may influence women's intention to breastfeed.

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