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Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression: An Overview and Methodological Recommendations for Future Research
Emerging research suggests that a relationship exists between breastfeeding and postpartum depression; however, the direction and precise nature of this relationship are not yet clear. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the relationship between breastfeeding and postpartum depression as it has been examined in the empirical literature. Also, the potential mechanisms of action that have been implicated in this relationship are also explored. PubMed and PsycINFO were searched using the keywords: breastfeeding with postpartum depression, perinatal depression, postnatal depression. Results of this search showed that researchers have examined this relationship in diverse ways using diverse methodology. In particular, researchers have examined the relationships between postpartum depression and breastfeeding intention, initiation, duration, and dose. Due to a number of methodological differences among past studies we make some recommendations for future research that will better facilitate an integration of findings. Future research should (1) use standardized assessment protocols; (2) confirmdiagnosis through established clinical interview when possible; (3) provide a clear operationalized definition for breastfeeding variables; (4) clearly define the postpartum period interval assessed and time frame for onset of symptoms; (5) be prospective or longitudinal in nature; and (6) take into consideration other potential risk factors identified in the empirical literature.
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