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J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2018 Jun;31(11):1442-1447. doi: 10.1080/14767058.2017.1319351. Epub 2017 May 5.

Effect of breastfeeding on postpartum depressive symptoms among adolescent and young adult mothers.

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a Department of Women, Children and Family Health Science , University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing , Chicago , IL , USA.
b Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health, University of Chicago , Chicago , IL , USA.
c Department of Mental Health , Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health , Baltimore , MD , USA.
d Department of Health System Science , University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing , Urbana , IL , USA.
e Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, Reproductive Sciences , Yale School of Medicine , New Haven , CT , USA.
f Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology , Yale School of Public Health , New Haven , CT , USA.



To describe the association between breastfeeding and postpartum depressive symptoms among a sample of adolescent and young adult mothers and to determine whether breastfeeding difficulty moderates this association.


Data were derived from a prospective cohort of pregnant adolescent and young adult females (ages 14-21) as they transitioned to parenthood. This analysis uses data collected during pregnancy and at 6 months postpartum among mothers (n = 137) who initiated breastfeeding. Multivariable linear regression was used to adjust for prenatal depressive symptoms and other potential confounders.


Postpartum depressive symptoms were not significantly associated with breastfeeding duration or breastfeeding at 6 months. Early breastfeeding difficulty moderated the association between depressive symptoms and breastfeeding at 6 months. Among young mothers who were still breastfeeding at 6 months, those who reported no early breastfeeding difficulties had the lowest depressive scores and those who reported much early breastfeeding difficulty had the highest depressive scores at 6 months.


Minimizing challenges with breastfeeding may help improve postpartum mental health among adolescent and young adult mothers. Health care providers should help young pregnant women manage expectations about breastfeeding and ensure that they are linked to appropriate professional breastfeeding support during the early postpartum period.


Depression; adolescent mother; breastfeeding; infant feeding; mental health; young mother

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