The Relative Effects of Breastfeeding Intention and Practice on Maternal Responsiveness

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Our objective was to examine the differential effects of antenatal breastfeeding intention and breastfeeding practice on maternal postnatal responsiveness.

We conducted a secondary analysis of longitudinal data from a subsample of 962 mother-infant dyads from a UK-based birth cohort study the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Exposures were breastfeeding intention and breastfeeding practices measured at 32 weeks gestation and 18 months postpartum. The outcome was maternal responsiveness assessed at 12 months postpartum. We used logistic regression analyses unadjusted and adjusted for confounders.

Intention to breastfeed was associated with increased odds of postnatal maternal responsiveness independent of breastfeeding practice (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 2.34, 95% CI 1.42, 3.86). There was no evidence that breastfeeding practice was an independent predictor of maternal responsiveness (OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.55, 1.57). Life-course epidemiology analyses demonstrated that maternal responsiveness is most positive when both the intention to breastfeed and breastfeeding practice are present.

This is the first population-based study to provide evidence that breastfeeding intention during pregnancy is more strongly associated with maternal postnatal responsiveness than breastfeeding practice. Further research is needed to understand the determinants of breastfeeding intention in pregnancy and its relationships with maternal responsiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Early online date25 Sep 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Sep 2019

Structured keywords

  • breastfeeding intention
  • breastfeeding practice
  • parent-child interactions
  • maternal responsiveness


  • Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children
  • breastfeeding intention
  • breastfeeding practice
  • maternal responsiveness
  • parent–child interactions


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