Background: Public health efforts to promote breastfeeding have resulted in many women expecting to exclusively breastfeed their infants. Women who plan to exclusively breastfeed but are not able to do so may experience psychological distress, including poor body image and symptoms of depression. Aim: We sought to investigate discrepancies between desired and actual breastfeeding behaviors, appreciation of the functionality of one's body, and self-compassion, in relation to symptoms of depression. Methods: A convenience sample of women (N = 536) who had recently given birth and expected to feed their infants exclusively with breastmilk provided information on an online survey. Results: There was an indirect effect of feeding discrepancies on depressive symptoms via lower appreciation of body functionality; women who expected to exclusively feed their infant breastmilk but were not able to do so had lower appreciation of body functionality. The effect of appreciation of body functionality was moderated by self-compassion such that those with the lowest self-compassion had the lowest appreciation of body functionality and the highest depressive symptoms; there was no difference in depressive symptoms for those with the highest levels of self-compassion. Conclusions: Implications of this work include the potential for interventions to bolster body image and self-compassion, which may reduce the likelihood of depressive symptoms in this population. Recommendations are provided regarding balancing the importance of increasing breastfeeding rates while also normalizing the challenges of breastfeeding and promoting body positivity and self-compassion.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Psychology
- Nutrition and Dietetics