Putting pressure on mums to breastfeed when they are having trouble with milk supply or getting baby to latch on can lead to anxiety and depression, study shows.
The push for 'breast is best' has been called 'out of touch' by researchers, after discovering only a third of mothers breastfed exclusively in the first three months.
University of Queensland researchers say many mums report problems with feeding their babies and the social pressure to breastfeed can lead to postnatal depression.
The Australian researchers say compassion and evidence-led information for the mother needs to play a bigger role in the breastfeeding debate.
The push for 'breast is best' has been called 'out of touch' by researchers, after discovering only a third of mothers breastfed exclusively in the first three months (stock photo)
As part of the study of 2,900 women with more than 5,300 children, the authors discovered 34 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfeed to six months.
They say this is despite the global push to increase rates to 50 per cent.
Lead researcher Dr Katrina Moss said mothers primarily stopped breastfeeding because of milk shortages or breastfeeding difficulties, such as latching and mastitis - inflammation of breast tissue that can lead to infection.
'Mothers can feel intense pressure to breastfeed, but breastfeeding isn't best for everyone,' Moss said.
'If mothers run into breastfeeding problems they may need to supplement or stop.'
Dr Moss said compassion must play a bigger role in the breastfeeding debate as 20 per cent of mothers suffer perinatal anxiety and depression.
'Feeding difficulties can increase the risk of perinatal anxiety and depression, which is experienced by up to 20 per cent of mothers,' she said.
The data came from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, which led the researchers to find 41 per cent of mothers supplement breastfeeding.
University of Queensland researchers say many mums report problems with feeding their babies and the social pressure to breastfeed can lead to postnatal depression (stock photo)
Instead of just saying 'breast is best', Dr Moss suggests mothers are given evidence-based information about natural fluctuations in breastmilk production.
She said they should also be given information on how to safely formula feed, and how to recognise cues that their baby is ready for solids.
She added: 'Feeding messages have been polarised between breastfeeding and formula, but in reality, it's not that simple; we found six different feeding practices.
'The majority of mothers don't exclusively breastfeed, usually for very good reasons, and the support they receive needs to reflect this.
'This study highlights the need for personalised support specific to each mother's situation.'