An exploration of the relationship between postnatal distress and maternal role attainment, breast feeding problems and breast feeding cessation in Australia

Churchill Livingstone
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Midwifery, 2007, 23 (1), pp. 66 - 76
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OBJECTIVES: To explore the relationships between maternal distress, breast feeding cessation, breast feeding problems and breast feeding maternal role attainment. DESIGN: Longitudinal cohort study. SETTING: Three urban hospitals within Sydney, Australia. PARTICIPANTS: 449 women were invited to participate in the study, with an 81% response rate. MEASUREMENT: Self-report questionnaires were used to collect the data in pregnancy (28-36 weeks) and 2 weeks and 3 months after birth. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) was used to measure postnatal distress, and the Maternal Role Attainment subscale (MRA) of the Maternal Breast Feeding Evaluation Scale (MBFES) was used to measure breast feeding maternal role attainment. FINDINGS: Women with high MRA were less likely to stop breast feeding (even when they had breast feeding problems) than women with low MRA. Antenatal EPDS and anxiety scores were not related to breast feeding cessation or breast feeding problems when analysed alone. As hypothesised, the relationship between breast feeding cessation and postnatal distress (EPDS scores) varied according to MRA level. Women who were categorised as high MRA and no longer breast feeding had higher EPDS scores and were more likely to be categorised as distressed (36%) than women who had low MRA (<12%) or women who had high MRA and continued to breast feed (7%). IMPLICATIONS: There is a complex relationship between maternal identity, stopping breast feeding earlier than desired, and psychological distress. Women with strong beliefs about the importance of breast feeding to their maternal role may benefit from psychological assessment and support should they decide to stop breast feeding earlier.
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