Breastfeeding difficulties in the first 6 weeks postpartum among mothers with chronic conditions: a latent class analysis

Abstract Background Breastfeeding difficulties frequently exacerbate one another and are common reasons for curtailed breastfeeding. Women with chronic conditions are at high risk of early breastfeeding cessation, yet limited evidence exists on the breastfeeding difficulties that co-occur in these mothers. The objective of this study was to explore clusters of breastfeeding difficulties experienced up to 6 weeks postpartum among mothers with chronic conditions and to examine associations between chronic condition types and breastfeeding difficulty clusters. Methods We analyzed 348 mothers with chronic conditions enrolled in a prospective, community-based pregnancy cohort study from Alberta, Canada. Data were collected through self-report questionnaires. We used latent class analysis to identify clusters of early breastfeeding difficulties and multinomial logistic regression to examine whether types of chronic conditions were associated with these clusters, adjusting for maternal and obstetric factors. Results We identified three clusters of breastfeeding difficulties. The “physiologically expected” cluster (51.1% of women) was characterized by leaking breasts and engorgement (reference outcome group); the “low milk production” cluster (15.4%) was discerned by low milk supply and infant weight concerns; and the “ineffective latch” cluster (33.5%) involved latch problems, sore nipples, and difficulty with positioning. Endocrine (adjusted relative risk ratio [RRR] 2.34, 95% CI 1.10–5.00), cardiovascular (adjusted RRR 2.75, 95% CI 1.01–7.81), and gastrointestinal (adjusted RRR 2.51, 95% CI 1.11–5.69) conditions were associated with the low milk production cluster, and gastrointestinal (adjusted RRR 2.44, 95% CI 1.25–4.77) conditions were additionally associated with the ineffective latch cluster. Conclusion Half of women with chronic conditions experienced clusters of breastfeeding difficulties corresponding either to low milk production or to ineffective latch in the first 6 weeks postpartum. Associations with chronic condition types suggest that connections between lactation physiology and disease pathophysiology should be considered when providing breastfeeding support.
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2023 Feb 02;23(1):90