Breastfeeding and maternal attachment: The moderating roles of maternal stress and child behavior

  • Gemma López-Fernández
    Corresponding author at: Department of gynecology and obstetrics. Corporació Sanitaria Parc Taulí. Parc del Taulí 1, 08208 Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain.
    Department of gynecology and obstetrics, Corporació Sanitaria Parc Taulí, Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain

    Department of Social Psychology and Quantitative Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
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  • Maite Barrios
    Department of Social Psychology and Quantitative Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

    Group on Measurement Invariance and Analysis of Change (GEIMAC), Institute of Neurosciences, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
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  • Juana Gómez-Benito
    Department of Social Psychology and Quantitative Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

    Group on Measurement Invariance and Analysis of Change (GEIMAC), Institute of Neurosciences, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
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Published:December 16, 2022DOI:


      • Studies focusing on the role of breastfeeding in maternal attachment have reached different conclusions.
      • This study provides evidence that breastfeeding is positively related to maternal attachment.
      • Maternal stress and child behavior problems moderate the relationship between breastfeeding and maternal attachment.



      This study examined the effect of breastfeeding on maternal attachment, and explored the moderating role of maternal stress and child behavior in this relationship, in a sample of Spanish mothers with children aged between 2 and 7 years.

      Design and methods

      A total of 432 mothers participated in a cross-sectional online survey. A three-way interaction model was used to test the moderating role of maternal stress and child behavioral problems in the relationship between breastfeeding and maternal attachment.


      The full model accounted for 19% of the variance of maternal attachment. Breastfeeding was significantly associated with mother-rated attachment, and the moderated moderation analysis confirmed the moderating effects of maternal stress and child behavior on the relationship between breastfeeding and maternal attachment.


      This study adds to the existing literature that supports the contribution that breastfeeding makes in enhancing maternal attachment, and may help to clarify the role of breastfeeding in shaping maternal attachment. Our findings suggest that breastfeeding is a factor in enhancing maternal attachment, and also identify maternal stress and child behavior as moderators of this relationship.

      Practice implications

      Understanding the mechanisms by which breastfeeding affects maternal attachment will help generate recommendations to improve breastfeeding and maternal attachment.


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