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Keywords:

  • Breastfeeding duration;
  • Postnatal emotional disturbances;
  • Social contact and support;
  • Socio-demographic factors;
  • Stressful life events in pregnancy

Abstract

Aim: An increased duration of breastfeeding has many advantages for the child and mother. However, little research to date has investigated the influence of maternal psychosocial well-being during pregnancy on the duration of breastfeeding. This study aimed to examine whether experience of life stress events, social contact/support in pregnancy and postpartum emotional disturbance had an effect on breastfeeding duration.

Methods: Using data from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort Study for 2420 women followed from 18 weeks gestation, we analyzed prevalent breastfeeding for 4 months or longer and its association with maternal psychosocial and socio-demographic factors in pregnancy, using multivariable logistic regressions.

Results: Experience of stressful life events during pregnancy increased the odds for the early cessation of prevalent breastfeeding (OR 1.34, p < 0.05, 95% CI 1.04–1.71) independent of maternal socio-demographic characteristics and biomedical factors. Stress events associated with separation or divorce, financial problems and residential moves in pregnancy were important predictors for a shorter duration of prevalent breastfeeding.

Conclusion: Experience of stressful life events during pregnancy increased the odds for the early cessation of prevalent breastfeeding. Interventions that move beyond hospital-based antenatal care to address the causes of maternal stress in pregnancy and socioeconomic disparities between women are required to increase breastfeeding duration.