Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Katie Kavanagh

Committee Members

Sarah Colby, Marsha Spence



Though several important barriers to exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) have been identified, the relationship between postpartum anxiety and EBF remains inadequately explored.


The objective of this study was to determine if there was a significant relationship between postpartum anxiety and EBF and, if so, determine if breastfeeding self-efficacy moderated this relationship.


This was a cross-sectional, online survey. Eligibility criteria: mothers (at least 18 years of age), with an infant (aged 4-24 weeks), and who had provided breastmilk at least once in the previous two weeks. The survey instrument included demographic questions and three scales: the EPDS (Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale; score range: 0-30), the STAI (State Trait Anxiety Inventory; score range: 0-60), and the BSES-SF (Breastfeeding Self-Efficacy Scale, short form; score range: 14-70).


The final sample size was 123. The majority reported being white (91.0%; n=112), non-Hispanic (91.0%; n=112), married (75.6%; n=93) and EBF at survey completion (61%; n=75). Mean scale scores: STAI, 26.1 (+/-13.10), EPDS, 10.3 (+/-4.30), and BSES-SF, 56.4 (+/-11.25). Anxiety (STAI) was significantly negatively related to breastfeeding self-efficacy (p=0.047) but not EBF (p=0.357). Path analysis showed an indirect effect of anxiety on EBF via direct impact on breastfeeding self-efficacy (p=0.025; model: p


In this largely homogeneous sample, results indicated the relationship between postpartum anxiety and breastfeeding self-efficacy may have been affecting EBF. Strengthening breastfeeding self-efficacy among women experiencing postpartum anxiety may be a potential strategy to support EBF. Future research should explore these concepts in a more heterogeneous sample.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."