Background: Mothers who breastfeed use lower levels of control over later child diet. The baby-led nature of breastfeeding may encourage this low control to develop. Alternatively maternal desire for control may drive breastfeeding duration. The present study explored whether differences in maternal control are present during milk feeding and whether these stem from or drive breastfeeding duration.
Methods: Five hundred and two mothers with an infant aged 6–12 months completed a modified retrospective version of the child-feeding questionnaire adapted to reflect milk feeding during the first 6 months post-partum. Participants were recruited from mother and baby groups and online parenting forums. Mothers recalled their use of encouraging intake and scheduling feeds in relation to their infant’s intake of milk. Attitudes towards breastfeeding were also measured, including views that breastfeeding is inconvenient, difficult and that formula-fed infants were more content.
Results: Compared to mothers who formula-fed or ceased breastfeeding within 1 week, mothers who breastfed for at least 6 months recalled a lower use of scheduling and encouraging milk feeds. Mothers who initiated breastfeeding but ceased within 1 week reported lower control compared to exclusive formula feeders. A high level of scheduling feeds was associated with considering that breastfeeding was inconvenient and a greater perceived infant size, whereas encouraging feeds was associated with considering that breastfeeding was difficult, low maternal confidence and a smaller perceived infant size.
Conclusions: Maternal desire for control may drive breastfeeding duration. A controlling maternal feeding style may therefore be dispositional and present much earlier than current studies suggest.