Maternal postnatal health and infant development

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Wilson, Meadhbh
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University College Cork
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The postnatal period is a critical time for long-term infant development. The current research sought to investigate the differential associations between PND, maternal-infant attachment and breastfeeding on long-term child developmental outcomes (i.e., cognitive, language, neuromotor and social-emotional development) at 12- and 24-months postnatal follow-up. While a significant amount of research has been conducted in several of these research areas, there remains many gaps and no consensus has been reached. The lack of consensus has in part been due to methodological limitations. Furthermore, there is little research taking a multifactorial approach, investigating the impact of these three important postnatal variables simultaneously. The current study looked to address the methodological limitations within the existing literature base by using a prospective design with multiple follow-ups, clear breastfeeding definitions and inclusion of important sample characteristics. The current study also investigated the effect of multiple independent variables on a wide range of developmental domains, providing a fuller and clearer picture of the impact these interwoven postnatal independent variables have on long-term child development. The study was a secondary data analysis of an Irish prospective longitudinal birth cohort, it recruited 456 nulliparious women and their infants. In the current study 336 maternal-infant dyads were included in the 12-month follow-up analysis and 120 dyads were included in the 24-month follow-up analysis. The dyads were healthy and of high socio-economic status. Postnatal depression was measured using the Edinburgh Scale of Postnatal Depression, attachment was measured using the Maternal Postnatal Attachment Scale and infant’s developmental outcomes were measured using the Bayley Scale of Infant Development-3rd edition and the Child Behaviour Checklist. Results showed significant associations between PND and attachment with social-emotional development but no associations with cognitive, language or neuromotor outcomes. However, significant associations were found between exclusive/predominant breastfeeding at two months with language and cognitive development. Moreover, there was evidence that attachment mediated the relationship between PND and the likelihood of predominately breastfeeding. The current findings contribute to the literature examining the impact of PND, maternal attachment and breastfeeding on early developmental outcomes. Keywords: Postnatal depression, Maternal attachment, Breastfeeding, Socio-emotional outcomes, Neurodevelopmental outcomes.
Postnatal depression , Maternal attachment , Socio-emotional outcomes , Neurodevelopmental outcomes , Breastfeeding
Wilson, M. 2022. Maternal postnatal health and infant development. DClinPsych Thesis, University College Cork.