Maternal Moods Predict Breastfeeding in Barbados

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Abstract

This study was designed to identify psychosocial variables affecting early infant feeding practices in Barbados. The sample included 93 healthy women and infants born at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital who were extensively evaluated 7 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after birth. Maternal moods were assessed with the Zung Depression and Anxiety Scales and the General Adjustment and Morale Scale. Feeding practices were evaluated using a questionnaire developed for this population. The prevalence of mild depression in this population was 16% at 7 weeks and increased to 19% at 6 months, whereas there were very few cases of moderate-to-severe depression. Disadvantaged environmental conditions, including less information-seeking by the mother, lower family income, and poor maternal health, were closely associated with increased symptoms of depression and anxiety in all women. However, significant predictive relationships between mood and feeding practices remained even when the effects of the home environment were controlled. Specifically, depressive symptoms at 7 weeks postpartum predicted a reduced preference for breastfeeding at current and later infant ages. Conversely, feeding practices did not predict maternal moods at later ages. These findings have important implications for public policy dealing with programs promoting breastfeeding. Early interventions designed to treat mild postnatal depression should be instituted early in the postpartum period to improve the chances for successful breastfeeding.

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