Burnout of breastfeeding mothers and its relationship to the duration of breastfeeding and maternal age

Julija Rutenbergė Galumbauskienė¹, Jūratė Pečeliūnienė1,2

¹ Vilnius University, Faculty of Medicine, Vilnius, Lithuania;

² Vilnius University, Faculty of Medicine, Vilnius, Lithuania; Clinic of internal diseases, family medicine and oncology, Vilnius, Lithuania;


Objective. The aim of the study was to evaluate maternal burnout related signs in relation to the duration of breastfeeding (DB) and maternal age in breastfeeding mothers (BFM).

Methods. The study included 620 BFM. Mothers anonymously completed the Shirom – Melamed Burnout Measure (SMBM) online version, which consisted of 3 subscales: physical fatigue, cognitive fatigue and emotional exhaustion. The questions were rated on a Likert – type scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Mothers were asked for how long they had been breastfeeding and 4 groups were defined: the 1st (< 6 months), the 2nd (6 – 12 months), the 3rd (12 – 24 months) and the 4th (24 + months).  4 age groups were defined: A (18 – 25 years) , B (26 – 30 years), C (31 – 35 years) and D (36 + years). The Pearson correlation coefficient and chi-square test were used for statistical analysis.

Results. The mean of SMBM value in the total sample was 35.6 ± 10.8 (15 – 70). A statistically significant relationship was found between physical fatigue and BD in the total sample (p = .0476). BD is significantly associated with total SMBM value (p = .0229), physical fatigue (p = .0175), and cognitive fatigue (p = .0152) in age group B. In age group D, a significant association was found with several questions reflecting cognitive fatigue (p < .05).

Conclusions. In the BFM group, almost a third of BFM, which breastfeed children ≥ 2 years, is more likely to experience physical burnout. Mothers aged 26 – 30 are more likely to develop physical, cognitive and general burnout. Cognitive burnout is more prevalent in BFM aged ≥ 36 compared to physical and emotional exhaustion. Some particular SMBM questions could be relevant to evaluate burnout syndrome in BFM, and this requires more detailed research in the future.

Keywords: breastfeeding; motherhood; burnout.