Maternal depressive symptoms in the early postnatal period predict attenuated responsiveness in feeding at child age 2 years (#114)
Maternal depression is a known risk factor for poor outcomes for children. Pathways to these poor outcomes relate to reduced maternal responsiveness and engagement with the child. Lack of responsiveness may also be evident in the feeding relationship and thus be a risk factor for inappropriate feeding practices that may increase the risk of childhood overweight. The aim of this study was to examine the longitudinal relationships between self-reported maternal postnatal depressive symptoms at child age 4 months and feeding practices at child age 2 years in a community sample of mothers.
Participants were Australian first-time mothers allocated to the control group of the NOURISH RCT when infants were 4 months old (277/346 allocated at baseline provided at least some data at follow up when children were 2 years old; 51% girls). The relationship between Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) score (child age 4 months) and child feeding practices (child age 2 years) measured using validated tools was tested using hierarchical linear regression analysis in order to adjust for maternal and child characteristics.
Complete data for planned regression analyses were available for 211 participants. Higher EPDS was associated with less responsive feeding practices at child age 2 years: specifically, greater pressure to eat (β=0.18, p=0.01), restriction (β=0.14, p=0.05), instrumental feeding (β=0.14, p=0.04), and emotional feeding (β=0.15, p=0.03) practices.
The present study provides evidence for the proposed link between maternal postnatal depressive symptoms and lower responsiveness in child feeding, even in a healthy sample of mothers. These findings emphasise the importance of providing support to mothers experiencing sub-clinical levels of depressive symptomatology in the early postnatal period in order to promote responsiveness in both general parenting and feeding contexts.