As a new mother, you do everything you can to provide the best for your baby -- after all, you just spent the past nine months caring for your child with your body alone. And if you used fertility treatments, you started fighting for and caring about your baby long before that. That’s why many women choose to breastfeed their child; it’s a labor of love that leads to greater bonding and has lots of great health benefits for your newborn. As doctors look to understand the connection between use of fertility treatments and breastfeeding, we often assume that once the baby is born, there is no difference in how care ensues post-birth between women who conceived naturally and with the help of reproductive technology. However, recent studies have taken a look at whether or not the use of fertility treatments leads to shorter durations of breastfeeding.
To look into this study, we’ll first look to understand why women choose breastfeeding, followed by a look into the curiosity behind fertility treatments and breastfeeding and the study’s results.
There are a variety of reasons why women choose to breastfeed their children, all of which have benefits both to mother and baby. For babies, breast milk is the perfect source of nutrients and is easily digestable. These nutrients help the baby in the future be healthier, less likely to have asthma, allergies, ear infections, and other illnesses. Additionally, it is said that babies who are breastfed are likely to have higher IQs later in life and have closer attachment to their mothers.
For mothers, breastfeeding burns calories and releases the hormone oxytocin which reduces uterus size after pregnancy (which reduces uterine bleeding following pregnancy). As you bond with your baby through breastfeeding, you’ll also be saving money on formula, breast pumps, and feeding nipples, allowing new mothers to save money as well.
It’s important to note that some mothers choose not to breastfeed for a variety of reasons or cannot breastfeed. In which case, remember that not breastfeeding does not make her any less of a mother (and frankly, probably isn’t your business).
Given the benefits of breastfeeding, the study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology looked to further understand breastfeeding outcomes in women who used fertility treatments. The study looked at data reported by mothers regarding fertility treatments and breastfeeding initiation and continuation at 8 week. This data was looked at from 4 states from the 2012-2015 Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System.
When analyzing data found, data were weighted to represent all women delivering live births in each state. The associations between fertility treatments and breastfeeding and the conclusions were found using stepwise multivariable logistic regression and were controlled for a variety of confounding factors, including demographics, plurality, mode of delivery, and pre-existing health conditions.
When looking at whether the use of fertility treatments affected breastfeeding outcomes, the study found that women conceiving spontaneously did not differ from women using any fertility treatments. However, it was found that women using assisted reproductive technology displayed lower odds of breastfeeding after 8 weeks when adjusting for demographics and health conditions (but the difference was not significant after adjusting for plurality or preterm birth).
In other words, there does appear to be a difference in breastfeeding initiation and duration between women who used assisted reproductive technology. Some possible explanations for this pattern include an increased likelihood of the child being born preterm - and therefore the mother not being able to breastfeed. Also, women using assisted reproductive technology are more likely to give birth to multiples, making breastfeeding more difficult and breast milk more scarce.
Overall, it can be said that the use of fertility treatments can have an effect on whether a mother breastfeeds and for how long she breastfeeds her child. What can be agreed on is that breastfeeding, if feasible, is an excellent choice for baby’s health, bonding, and your wallet. But it’s important to remember that breastfeeding is just a small part in a mother’s ability to care for her child and whether she is able to breastfeed or not does not mean she is any less of a mother, or that her child won’t grow to be a happy, intelligent, and loved member of the family.