Differences in Perceived Infant Temperament, Bonding and Mental Health between Breastfeeding and Non-Breastfeeding Mothers
Keywords:breastfeeding, mental health, depression, anxiety, temperament, bonding
AbstractBreastfeeding is associated with numerous health benefits for the mother and the child. Therefore, global health organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months of an infant’s life. Considering the inconsistent results within the literature, this study aimed to examine the differences between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers in sociodemographic and obstetric factors, perceived infant temperament, quality of mother-infant bonding and maternal mental health (depression, anxiety, stress). We also wanted to explore how much these variables contribute to the variance of the infant feeding method. The online study involved 284 mothers of infants up to the age of six months. The following questionnaires were used: Infant Characteristics Questionnaire (ICQ); Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS); Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS-21; Anxiety and Stress subscales); Postpartum Bonding Questionnaire (PBQ), and the general data questionnaire. The results showed that breastfeeding mothers had higher education, had less frequently emergency caesarean sections, and evaluated their childbirth as a traumatic experience less often. Also, breastfeeding mothers reported significantly more unadaptable and unpredictable temperament of their infants. However, there was no significant difference between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers in other sociodemographic and obstetric characteristics, bonding or mental health. Higher education, non-traumatic childbirth and more unadaptable infant temperament contribute to explaining breastfeeding. The findings suggest the need for breastfeeding support for mothers who had an emergency caesarean section or a traumatic birth experience. Moreover, breastfeeding mothers need adequate help establishing a more predictable feeding routine and the optimal approach to the infant with a difficult temperament.