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Does personality type affect breastfeeding experience? The results!

(21 Posts)
hester Sat 23-Aug-08 00:16:50

OK, so here is my extremely unscientific and not-guilt-tripping-at-all analysis of this thread:

Important caveats:

1. The thread was bound to attract higher numbers of people who are interested in bf and who found it a positive experience. MNetters who are not interested in/didn't enjoy bf are obviously more likely to stay away.

2. The thread was also bound to attract people with a higher interest in personality type theories. The 16 different Myers Briggs types were not equally represented.

3. I chose to exclude a few posters, usually because they gave two personality types.

4. I grouped bf experience as either positive, negative, ambivalent or didn't bf. Inevitably this classification was subjective on my part. Many posters said they struggled at first but then it turned out great; as this is a very common pattern (the norm?) I counted those as positive. Ambivalent was if they said something like, "I liked some bits of it and hated others' or 'I'm pleased I did it because it was right for my child, but I didn't personally like it much".

5. I counted breastfeeding experiences, rather than individuals. This was to allow proper repsentation of women who had different bf experiences with different children, but it does mean some types are over-represented.

Here's the data (posh word for a scribbled list on the back of an envelope!):

ENFP: 26 (17 positive bf, 8 negative, 1 ambivalent)
INTJ: 24 (22 positive, 2 negative)
INFP: 16 (11 positive, 2 negative, 2 ambivalent, 1 didn't bf)
INTP: 15 (12 positive, 3 negative)
ISFJ: 15 (9 positive, 2 negative, 4 ambivalent)
ISTJ: 13 (9 positive, 4 negative)
ENFJ: 13 (5 positive, 2 negative, 5 ambivalent)
ENTP: 12 (5 positive, 7 negative)
ESFP: 8 (6 positive, 1 negative, 1 ambivalent)
ESTP: 7 (3 positive, 1 negative, 1 ambivalent)
ISTP:6 (3 positive, 1 negative, 2 ambivalent)
ENTJ: 6 (5 positive, 1 ambivalent)
ESFJ: 6 (4 positive, 1 negative, 1 didn't bf)
ISFP: 3 (2 positive, 1 negative)
INFJ: 2 (2 ambivalent)
ESTJ: 1 (1 positive)

For people who haven't read up on Myers Briggs, here is a very, very rough explanation: the model assumes we are all born with a disposition, which is developed through life experience, to preferences in how we are energised, draw in information, make decisions and live our lives. Note that these are preferences, not skills or abilities. They are NOT a good predictor of what people will do, how they will behave, or what they will achieve.

The first letter - E or I - is about what energises and motivates us. Es (extraverts) are primarily energised by the external world, by contact with other people. They often do their problem-solving through thinking aloud, in conversation with others. Is (Introverts) are primarily energised by their internal world (though they may be highly socially skilled); they prefer to think things through before discussing with others, and are often more self-contained and less disclosing than Es.

The second letter - S or N - is about our preferred information sources. Ss (Sensing types) prefer to focus on reality, detail, lived experience, with a strong focus on the present, on what is 'real', demonstrable. Ns (Intuitive types) are more interested in the big picture, in new possibilities, in change and the future, in the connections between things, in breadth rather than depth.

The third letter - T or F - is about our priorities in decision-making. Ts (Thinking types) are head over heart: they give higher value to logic, reason and consistent criteria. Fs (Feeling types) are heart over head: they give higher priority to people, emotions, values.

The fourth letter - J or P - is about how we prefer to live our lives. Js (Judging types) prefer to be planful, ordered, structured. Ps (Perceiving types) prefer to be more flexible, spontaneous, unstructured.

This quick rundown doesn't give justice to the richness of the Myers Briggs model. The letters combine to give 16 different types which are more than the sum of their parts. The model also describes how parts of the different types become more or less dominant, and how they interact and develop over time. But the important thing to remember is that this is not about defining how people will behave, but about exploring people's motivations, preferences, and ways of understanding and communicating their own experiences.

So how does this apply to breastfeeding? We know that bf is multi-factorial and personality type cannot predict whether someone will bf, whether they will do so successfully, or how they will feel about the experience. So, as has already been said, Is may find the complete invasion of personal space amounted by bf (and indeed by early motherhood) particularly stressful. Es may suffer from the isolation. I wouldn't be surprised to find many Ss disliking the inability to know how much milk their baby is getting. Ts may describe their reasons for bf in terms of the evidence for why it is best for baby, while Fs may report that it 'feels like the right thing to do' or 'I just wanted to' (note that I am not saying that these types would be bf for different reasons, but they may communicate different priorities. Ps may particularly take to demand feeding, while Js may find the lack of order/inability to plan round demand feeding stressful.

In our sample, it's interesting to note that Is outweigh Es. Is that because Is are overrepresented among Mumsnetters, among breastfeeders? Is it possible that Es find bf too isolating? A higher proportion of the Is did find bf positive, though most of the Es did too.

On N-S, Ns were more strongly represented than Ss, though the proportions finding bf positive weren't significantly different.

There were almost equal numbers of F and T experiences, which is interesting as T-F is the only dichotomy with a gender imbalance (75% of women are F). Similar proportions of T and F found bf positive.

Ps outweighed Js, but not hugely and again the differences in positive/negative experiences weren't significant.

Anything else stand out? Well, INTJs seem to love breastfeeding! A few INTJ posters made the same point: that they value logic, order and structure. They say they breastfeed because all the evidence shows it is the best thing to do; they prepare for it and approach it methodically. If it is difficult, they assume there is a logical solution and they seek it out. As one said:"I place huge importance on my bf relationships. I think being a problem solver/analytical thinker helped. Whenever I had a problem with bf I went looking for the solution".

A couple of STJs mentioned that their focus on logic, detail and process found it hard for them to surrender to an inherently organic, flexible and uncontrollable process: "I am a very analytical, high achieving, logical, control freak... I found going with the flow and letting my baby lead very difficult indeed". But the majority of STJ experiences were still positive.

ENFJs were the most ambivalent. ENTPs had a high number of negatives.

Oh lordy, look at the time. I'm going to post this up now, and return to it tomorrow with a fresh brain. I'll be interested to hear anybody else's thoughts!

hester Sat 23-Aug-08 00:17:19

Oh lordy, what a long post. I don't suppose anybody will be arsed to read it. Except mears.

hester Sat 23-Aug-08 00:20:03

Sorry, here's the original thread. I'm off to bed.

sallyforth Sat 23-Aug-08 02:22:34

Thanks hester - v interesting. Sorry did not reply to original thread.

I usually come out as INTP .. I had hyuuge bf probs initially, partly due to not preparing myself adequately and partly due to not seeking help early, but now at 6mo and LOVING it and would say that overall I had a positive experience of bf. And although I'd expected to need a "routine" I am very much a demand feeding, go with the flow type mum.

I do wonder whether MB pers type may affect not so much pos/neg experience of bf, but the type of problems faced. eg being I, I tried to sort out probs myself first before accessing help via the helplines (in retrospect this was v stupid). Do you think Is may generally find it harder to use a telephone helpline than Es?

Think a bit of qualitative research in baby cafes is called for... wish I had the time to get the ethical approval to do it myself! but back to work soon, boo....

nooka Sat 23-Aug-08 03:26:48

Very interesting Hester. Thanks. I think that I didn't enjoy breastfeeding/early motherhood because of the invasion of personal space, which is the "I" in me (I'm INFP). Sometimes it was great and lovely, and other times it made me want to scream!

BouncingTurtle Sat 23-Aug-08 08:02:51

Very interesting reading!

CantSleepWontSleep Sat 23-Aug-08 08:13:30

Blimey hester - well done.

Am most shock that I am the only ESTJ. Always knew I was special wink.

mears Sat 23-Aug-08 09:54:59

Thank you Hester for going to so much effort to put this altogether.

In my original question I wondered whether my sister disliked the breastfeeding experience because she was ISJT. The majority in this survey viewed it positively. Funnily enough it is the structure element that I think my sis cannot cope with. Demand feeding certainly was not for her - likes routine. However the logic part drives her to express and still provide her babies with breastmilk because she knows it is the best milk for them.

I am surprised that the Is have it over the Es but there you go.

This has been quite a nice fun thread in the end up don't you think?

Thanks again Hester grin

ollyop Sat 23-Aug-08 13:46:38

Wow Hester, thanks for that.

sallyforth I am very much of an I preference, and also very much one to sort things out for myself before consulting any one else.

I question everything, even the experts, and inevitably make my own theories. That's probably why I was able to stand my ground so well against breast feeding sceptics.

I would guess that there would be more Is than E's on most internet forums.

I would also guess at more S's and F's on Facebook.

BabiesEverywhere Sat 23-Aug-08 13:58:28

Thanks for the post, very interesting.

Link to original post for lurkers here

Sputnik Sat 23-Aug-08 14:12:09

Thanks Hester, and Mears for starting the thread

Anyone fancy making a graph of those results?

PinkTulips Sat 23-Aug-08 14:14:37

i think I's probably enjoy the excuse to sit at home snuggling a small cuddly newborn and are less concerned with getting out to see people and do things in those early weeks.

i know that would have been my attitude, when i did go out i went for nice strolls down the road or sauntered to the shops, i didn't feel the need to socialise and therefore the fact that i was unable to feed dd in public (reflux, puking, difficult feeder, much leaking grin) didn't hamper me establishing bf-ing.

i'm INFP and found breastfeeding bloody hard but very enjoyable after the initial hell with dd and loved every minute with ds.

i had my fair share of problems and think sallyforth is right, my introverted nature made it impossible for me to seek help via telephone lines, M&B groups or breastfeeding groups. luckily i had the MN book to get me through grin

Sputnik Sat 23-Aug-08 14:21:49

I agree Pink Tulips, I was very happy to go off with the baby and spend hours bfing in bed with a good book, or on the sofa with the laptop (INTP). Demand feeding no problem.

suzi2 Sat 23-Aug-08 14:48:31

CSWS, I'm an ESTJ too, though never quite got round to posting my result on the original thread. So you're not that special winksmile. I like your username... I wonder if we both have children who aren't a fan of sleep?

With my first I went searching for help and ENDLESS amounts of info whenever I came up to a problem. I don't like to be 'defeated' by things either. And once I knew all the facts, there was very little way I wasn't going to continue breastfeeding. I also got to love it and fed DS for a year. DD was born 6 months after I stopped and I would have breastfed her through anything I think.

Oddly enough I'd consider myself fairly introverted, but do some breastfeeding peer support and when it comes to that I'm very outgoing. So I assume that's what the test picked up. I did this test at uni some 10 yrs ago... wonder if I can find my results again to compare lol.

mears Sat 23-Aug-08 14:53:01

Interesting aspect about contacting groups for help - you are not going to feel comfortable doing that if it isn't in your nature.

My DS3 was diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes last year and the last thing I want to do is join a group to share experiences - he is adamant he isn't going to.

tori32 Sat 23-Aug-08 14:57:16

I think perhaps it does. When I had dd1 I had just left the RAF, had discipline and self discipline and worked to a set schedule. I hated disorganisation (and still do to a certain extent), I hated bf with a passion because of having to demand feed and its unpredictability. It has taken 2.5yrs for me to mellow and when I had dd2 5mths ago I wanted to bf again and for longer. It has taken a huge amount of willpower and re-evaluating priorities for me to continue and on some levels I still wish I had the predictability of knowing when feeds will be i.e. at set times. I have to give myself a good talking too and tell myself its best for dd2, easier when I go out etc to convince myself to carry on. I still firmly believe that had I bottle fed dd2 she would have slept for 12hrs at 12 wks like her sister. hmm Thats when I wish dd2 would take a bottle because I need lots of sleep.

However, I congratulate myself every day for persevering for another day. smile
I think people who are very flexible with parenting and don't have preconcieved ideas will find it easier than those who have high expectations iyswim.

AbricotsSecs Sat 23-Aug-08 15:08:17

Message withdrawn

KashaSarrasin Sat 23-Aug-08 15:18:08

Interesting - I didn't post on the original thread but am an INTJ fortunate enough to be getting stuck into my second very positive bf experience (both times only problems have been crap advice from hcps and feeling like I'm battling the system by bfing. I've been very lucky!)

Hester your comments from other INTJs in the OP apply to me to - every time I hit a potential problem bfing DS1 I was on Kellymom or Jack Newman's site looking for a logical solution.

A really interesting study!

KristinaM Sat 23-Aug-08 19:04:55

hester - i must confess to being shock by your results. i posted on the thread but only to be a little hmm about the whole idea of personality determining BF experince. it seemed to be that there were other factors that you would need to control for which i thought would have a stronger influnece. also mears mentioned that she didnt want women with medical or birth problem ( i had both)

now i have to confess my own type, which i didn't post, which is INTJ ( I had it done by a psychologist some years ago so didnt do the online test)

and you are right, i lOVE bf and have now been bf for the last 4 1/2 years ( two different children). Despite terribel trouble with DS1 who had clampdown bite reflex and reflux and milk supply problems due to postpartum thyroiditis

Kristine eats humble pie blush

mears - hope your Ds is ok now with IDDM

ollyop Sat 23-Aug-08 19:15:00

KristinaM - I guessed you were a likely INTJ when I read your post on the other thread.
I am too. How much of yourself do you recognise from
Interesting that INTJ's make up such a small percentage of the population and yet seem to be so well represented on mumsnet grin

hester Sun 24-Aug-08 21:21:47

Ooh, you INTJs, can't wait to get your tits out grin
Did anyone else see the interview with Kate Garraway in yesterday's Guardian? The one about bf, which featured a photo of her 'bf' a calf?

Do you think she's an INTJ too?

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