Are unmet breastfeeding expectations associated with maternal depressive symptoms?
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<p><strong>OBJECTIVE: </strong>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.</p>
<p><strong>METHODS: </strong>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.</p>
<p><strong>RESULTS: </strong>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.</p>
<p><strong>CONCLUSIONS: </strong>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.</p>