Breastfeeding difficulties may increase the risk of developing postnatal depression, according to researchers from Swansea University.
They found that stopping breastfeeding due to pain or physical difficulties predicted an increased risk of postnatal depression.
In contrast, stopping for other reasons, such as social reasons or embarrassment, did not.
The findings highlight the importance of support for women who experience difficulties during breastfeeding, said the study authors in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
The study involved 217 women with an infant aged 0-6 months who had started breastfeeding at birth but had stopped before six months old.
“If we want more women to breastfeed, we really need to invest in the support systems to enable them to do so”
They completed a questionnaire examining breastfeeding duration and reasons for stopping breastfeeding, as well as a copy of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.
The study authors said understanding women’s specific reasons for stopping breastfeeding, rather than breastfeeding duration, was “critical” in understanding their experience and providing women with emotional support.
Issues with pain and physical breastfeeding were most indicative of postnatal depression in comparison to psychosocial reasons, they said, highlighting the importance of spending time with new mothers to help them with issues, such as latch.
“We know that many new mothers want to breastfeed but often that they experience difficulties in doing so,” said lead author Dr Amy Brown.
“Although the majority of women should be able to breastfeed, issues such as complications during delivery, time-pressured health professionals, and a lack of experience of what breastfeeding is really like, can all make breastfeeding more difficult,” she said.
“If we want more women to breastfeed, we really need to invest in the support systems to enable them to do so,” she added.