Are Unmet Breastfeeding Expectations Associated With Maternal Depressive Symptoms?



      Most US women intend and initiate breastfeeding, yet many do not breastfeed as long as desired. Not meeting one's own prenatal expectations is a plausible mechanism for the previously observed association between lack of breastfeeding and postpartum depression (PPD). This study explored whether meeting prenatal expectations for exclusive breastfeeding was associated with PPD symptoms.


      The 2005 Infant Feeding Practices Study II (IFPSII) followed US mothers, primarily white women with higher education and income, from midpregnancy to 1 year postpartum. Depressive symptoms were defined as Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) of 10 or higher, measured at 2 months postpartum. Logistic regression analysis evaluated the odds of maternal depressive symptoms as a function of meeting prenatal expectations for exclusive breastfeeding, accounting for breastfeeding behavior, demographics, and postnatal experiences.


      Among IFPSII participants, 1501 intended exclusive breastfeeding and completed the EPDS. At 2 months, 589 (39.2%) had met prenatal expectations for exclusive breastfeeding. EPDS was 10 or higher for 346 participants (23.1%). Adjusted odds of depressive symptoms were lower among women meeting prenatal exclusive breastfeeding expectations versus those who were not (odds ratio 0.71, 95% confidence interval 0.52–0.96). In subgroup analysis, there was no association between met expectations and depressive symptoms among women with lower incomes (<200% federal poverty level) or those intending mixed breast and formula feeding.


      Among middle- and higher-income women who intended exclusive breastfeeding, those meeting prenatal breastfeeding expectations reported fewer PPD symptoms at 2 months postpartum. Clinician understanding and support of maternal expectations may improve maternal mental health.


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