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Understanding the relationship between breastfeeding and postnatal depression: the role of pain and physical difficulties.

AIMS: To examine the relationship between specific reasons for stopping breastfeeding and depressive symptoms in the postnatal period.

BACKGROUND: Difficulty breastfeeding has been connected to postnatal depression although it is unclear whether difficulty breastfeeding precedes or succeeds a diagnosis. However, the concept of 'breastfeeding difficulty' is wide and includes biological, psychological and social factors.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional self-report survey.

METHODS: Data were collected between December 2012 and February 2013. 217 women with an infant aged 0-6 months who had started breastfeeding at birth but had stopped before 6 months old completed a questionnaire examining breastfeeding duration and reasons for stopping breastfeeding. They further completed a copy of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.

RESULTS: A short breastfeeding duration and multiple reasons for stopping breastfeeding were associated with higher depression score. However, in a regression analysis only the specific reasons of stopping breastfeeding for physical difficulty and pain remained predictive of depression score.

CONCLUSIONS: Understanding women's specific reasons for stopping breastfeeding rather than breastfeeding duration is critical in understanding women's breastfeeding experience and providing women with emotional support. Issues with pain and physical breastfeeding were most indicative of postnatal depression in comparison to psychosocial reasons highlighting the importance of spending time with new mothers to help them with issues such as latch.

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