Breastfeeding And Postpartum Depression

The Connection Between Breastfeeding And Postpartum Depression

The question has been asked many times - is there a correlation between breastfeeding and postpartum depression? While some studies show that breastfeeding increases postpartum depression, others show that, in some women, breastfeeding decreases postpartum depression. So, which is it? Well, it depends. 

Postpartum depression can be exacerbated by many things, such as money troubles, marital issues and a lack of support, a history of low self esteem or depression, and unplanned pregnancy. But what about breastfeeding - can it create or worsen postpartum depression?

Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression – Making It Worse

Society values breastfeeding. As a result of this, doctors, nurses, and mommy/baby groups can’t stress enough the importance of breastfeeding. They tout the wealth of benefits, such as convenience, immune system reinforcement, and the chance for mother and baby to form a close bond.Not to mention the fact that breastfeeding supplies typically qualify for a tax write-off thanks in part to the ACA. For many new moms, that leads to a feeling that they must breastfeed in order to be a good mother.

This kind of stress is a definite way to encourage or increase the development of postpartum depression.

It’s true that on some levels breastfeeding may be convenient, but it does have some negative aspects for an already depressed or anxious mom. One is the fact that no one but she can feed the baby unless the milk is expressed. If she does express, that creates the added strain of spending the precious moments between nursings pumping milk to store for feedings that will be handled by someone else.

Some moms may succumb to the guilt of wanting to switch to formula but being afraid that others will look down on them for doing so. For some women, breastfeeding contributed to depression by increasing their sense of feeling trapped by the dependency of the baby at the expense of their own well-being, thereby intensifying the feelings of responsibility for keeping the baby alive. 

Mom may also suffer self esteem and confidence issues spurred from staying at home all the time or suffering through discomfort due to breastfeeding in public. It can also mean that she no longer has any time to herself or the ability to go out with friends because she feels she must always be near the baby in case her infant needs to be fed.

Some mothers even develop a form of postpartum depression called ‘postpartum OCD,’ or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This can be brought on by a mother’s consistent and fear-inducing panic that the baby is not taking in enough milk or that she is not producing enough milk to satisfy her child.

She may also obsess and worry about her diet for fear that she may eat something that is bad for the baby. All of these worries can really exacerbate a borderline or developing case of postpartum depression. 

The Joy Of Breastfeeding recordings can help you enjoy and be successful at breastfeeding your baby.

Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression – Making It Better

Some women take quite naturally to breastfeeding with little problem. In this case, breastfeeding can be a positive experience and serve as an anchor. The routine of a nursing schedule and the chance to cuddle and feel close with her infant has been claimed a sanity-saver by many women.

In fact, for a woman suffering with postpartum depression, breastfeeding may feel to her like one of the only ways she can bond with her baby. A great site called Parenting with Positive Thinking has more details on some of the benefits of breastfeeding.

Options for Women Struggling with Breastfeeding and Suffering from Depression 

There is obviously no one right solution for all women. If a mom is fighting postpartum depression and breastfeeding, and feels strongly about wanting to breastfeed, she may want to consider supplementing a feed or two each day with formula.

If a friend or partner is willing, the mom could allow them to feed the child formula so that she can take a nap, go out with friends, get a full night’s sleep, or simply do something she enjoys. This can give her a much-needed break. The chance to simply get extra sleep is extremely beneficial in fighting postpartum depression, as it can be worsened by exhaustion and lack of sleep

If those options don’t help, and a mother feels like breastfeeding is increasing her stress, anxiety, or depression, it is worthwhile for her to consider making the full switch to formula. 

If a mom has struggled with breastfeeding due to issues with breast milk supply, there are methods for increasing breast milk supply that can help.

If, for one reason or the other, a mother was not able to breast feed, she should feel pride in the fact that she did her best to nurse. She should throw out any negative feelings or self-doubt, and make a decision about breastfeeding based on her well-being as well as her baby’s. There are plenty of benefits to breastfeeding, but nothing worth the sacrifice of a mom’s mental health. 

breastfeeding and postpartum depression

If you are finding breastfeeding in public difficult due to embarrassment, there are plenty of ways to make it as discreet as possible to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

For a practical approach to breastfeeding, our friends at Newborn Hub have the ultimate breastfeeding guide to help steer you in the right direction in order to nurse your newborn like a pro.

Have A Great Question Or Wisdom About Breastfeeding?

Do you have a question about breastfeeding your newborn? Or perhaps you have some wisdom to give to other moms. Please, feel free to contribute here!

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What Other Visitors Have Said

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not just social pressure 
This article assumes that the main--or only--reasons for choosing breastfeeding over formula, even when stressed by it, are social. How about concern for …

Pumping at Work 
Believe me, I am not excited about the idea of pumping at work, but it must be done. Trouble is, my boss disagrees. I'm a teacher, so I don't get "breaks" …

Sarah Coles 
I always wanted to breastfeed my son and after antenatal classes believed we would both take to it naturally (after all our bodies are made to do this). …

GODDESSY: Life, Breastfeeding, And What Is Beautiful Not rated yet
Written by a celebrity mom during her process of overcoming postpartum while breastfeeding... My greatest accomplishment is being a stay-at-home mother. …

bf with PPd and thrush Not rated yet
Basically it SUCKS especially with recovering from a c-section delivery. But I'm really not here to throw a fit, maybe my experience will be helpful for …

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"No mother has to suffer from PPD needlessly. This is a fact. But until you know what you're up against, you'll still be trapped - without knowing why! A typical example is the common misconception that depression is "all just in the mind." Your first step is to keep an open mind; and allow Laura to take you by the hand and guide you step by step through the PPD universe. Using a "wellness" approach, and with her usual friendly and informative style, trust me, she can help you help yourself getting out of the rut - naturally - in no time."

- Naturopath Alex Leong, B.A.S.M.

“Laura realizes the interconnections between mind, body, and spirit and offers down-to-earth,  practical guidelines in harmonizing them.”

- Karen Szillat, Early Childhood Educator and Peace Advocate Author of Empowering The Children:  12 Universal Values Your Child Must Learn to Succeed In Life

“I wish I had had this valuable book after my baby was born.  Fantastic information!”

- Gigi Murfitt, Author of Caregiver’s Devotions To Go and My Message is C.L.E.A.R.

"I just want to say in my capacity as pediatrician, teacher of pediatrics, and medical journalist, how very impressed I am by your website. I think your site is very thoughtful, not at all doctrinaire, and will be very valuable to mothers (and I think fathers, too in a second-hand sort of way) suffering from a variety of postpartum problems, of which the most common and perhaps the most serious is PPD. Anyway, thank you for your site, which I will certainly pass on to mothers in my practice."

Sydney Z. Spiesel, Ph DMD Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine

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Being a new mom can be challenging, especially if you’re fighting PPD. Use a powerful tool - positive affirmations!

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Being a new mom can be challenging, especially if you’re fighting PPD. Use a powerful tool - positive affirmations!

Download my FREE ebooklet, “Positive Affirmations For The New Mom".

Positive Affirmations Ebooklet
Claim your Ebooklet NOW