Personality Traits Predict Meeting the WHO Recommendation of 6 Months' Breastfeeding: A Prospective General Population Cohort Study

Tjitte Verbeek, Loes Quittner, Paul de Cock, Nynke de Groot, Claudi L. H. Bockting, Huibert Burger

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4 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Although personality as well as anxiety and depression are recognized as predictors for breastfeeding initiation, evidence of an association of these factors with 6 months' exclusive breastfeeding as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) is sparse. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to investigate the associations of personality and symptoms of anxiety and depression during and after pregnancy with meeting the WHO recommendation of 6 months' exclusive breastfeeding. METHODS: In their first trimester of pregnancy, 5784 pregnant women were enrolled in Dutch primary obstetric care centers and hospitals, of which 2927 completed the breastfeeding assessments 6 months postpartum. We performed logistic regression analyses to test the associations of "big five" personality traits (NEO Five Factor Inventory), anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), and depression (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) symptom levels during pregnancy and postpartum with meeting the WHO recommendation of 6 months' exclusive breastfeeding. RESULTS: Agreeableness (odds ratio [OR] = 1.18, P = .006) and openness (OR = 1.31, P < .001) were positively associated with meeting the WHO recommendation, whereas extraversion (OR = 0.83, P = .005) and neuroticism (OR = 1.18, P = .006) were negatively associated. After adjustment for both antenatal and postpartum symptom levels of anxiety and depression, the associations of the agreeableness, extraversion, and openness personality traits remained strong and statistically significant (P < .05). IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Patient-centered care should take personality into account in an effort to tailor interventions to optimize breastfeeding behavior. IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH: In contrast to earlier findings, personality traits may be of greater importance than symptoms of anxiety and depression for meeting the WHO recommendation of 6 months' exclusive breastfeeding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-126
JournalAdvances in neonatal care : official journal of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • anxiety
  • breastfeeding continuation
  • depression
  • exclusive breastfeeding
  • personality traits

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