Younger mothers

Can teen mothers breastfeed?

Teenage mothers, like nearly all mothers, want the best for their babies. They nearly always have enough breast milk, but they face unique challenges. They may have less confidence, financial problems, or family and friends who do not support breastfeeding. Sometimes young mothers are not taken seriously. They should ask for help if needed. If family and friends are not supportive, they should look for other sources of support.

A) Teen mothers

Worldwide, there were 47 births for every 1,000 teenage girls in 2015 (WHO 2018).

Teen mothers, just like the vast majority of mothers:

  • Want the best for their babies.
  • Benefit from professional and social support (Erfina 2019).
  • Nearly always have enough milk for their babies.
  • May develop breastfeeding problems.
  • May feel sad or depressed when having breastfeeding problems (Sipsma 2018).
  • May be ill or have babies who are ill.

B) Unique challenges

Teen mothers can also face barriers to breastfeeding.

Compared with mothers aged 20 to 29, teens and their babies are more likely to have medical complications. They may also (Celik 2017; Kanhadilok 2015):

  • Have less life experience, which can reduce confidence.
  • Have less education.
  • Be facing unwanted unemployment or a premature return to work.
  • Have financial problems.
  • Have partners, families, or friends who do not support breastfeeding or are not comfortable seeing them breastfeed (Austen 2017).
  • Have poor self-image.
  • Feel embarrassed about breastfeeding.

Sometimes health-care providers, friends, and family assume that teen mothers cannot care for their baby or breastfeed. This can result in less breastfeeding support (Sipsma 2013).

Younger mothers may not be taken seriously. However, a baby’s mother, young or not, is often the first person to notice changes or problems in the baby’s behaviour.

If you are a younger mother, trust your instincts and ask for help if you think there is a problem.

References

Austen EL, Beadle J, Lukeman S, et al. Using a Music Video Parody to Promote Breastfeeding and Increase Comfort Levels Among Young Adults. J Hum Lact. 2017 Aug;33(3):560-569
 
Celik R, Törüner EK. The effect of technology-based breastfeeding approach on adolescent mothers’ breastfeeding situation. Int J Gyn Obs Neonatal Care 2017; 4:1-6
 
Erfina E, Widyawati W, McKenna L, et al. Adolescent mothers' experiences of the transition to motherhood: An integrative review. Int J Nurs Sci. 2019 Mar 25;6(2):221-228
 
Kanhadilok S, McGrath JM. An Integrative Review of Factors Influencing Breastfeeding in Adolescent Mothers. The Journal of Perinatal Education. 2015;24(2):119-127
 
Sipsma HL, Magriples U, Divney A, et al. Breastfeeding behavior among adolescents: initiation, duration, and exclusivity. J Adolesc Health. 2013 Sep;53(3):394-400
 
Sipsma HL, Ruiz E, Jones K, et al. Effect of breastfeeding on postpartum depressive symptoms among adolescent and young adult mothers. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2018 Jun;31(11):1442-1447
 
World Health Organization (WHO). Adolescent pregnancy; Fact sheet. Geneva: World Health Organization; updated 2018 [cited 2018 Mar 26]