Depression and Breastfeeding: Are They Connected?
Motherhood is rewarding, but it is not always a bubble of joy and smiles. It can be hard and exhausting, and no matter how much you love your newborn, it is entirely possible to feel dejected, demotivated and moody in the first year of motherhood. Studies have shown that one in seven women suffer postpartum depression within four weeks of delivery, and when you’re breastfeeding, it can become a seemingly insurmountable challenge.
Because both breastfeeding and postpartum depression happen almost at the same period, some people think that they may have a connection. Does breastfeeding trigger depression? Can depressed mothers continue to breastfeed their baby?
Let’s get it out of the way: A study conducted by the Department of Psychology at Lakehead University says that while there may be a relationship between breastfeeding and postpartum depression, its exact direction or nature is still unclear. There is no evidence that breastfeeding triggers postpartum depression, but its exact relationship is muddy at best. The relationship between depression and breastfeeding is a unique situation because it affects the mother’s motivation to give her child precious breastmilk, but not being able to engage in breastfeeding increases the risk of depression. It’s a tricky position to be in.
What is postpartum depression anyway? Postpartum depression is diagnosed when the moody feeling affects the mother so severely that it impacts her daily life physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. When a mother goes through postpartum depression, she may feel too overwhelmed to feed her baby breastmilk. Some mothers, on the other hand, slide into depression because of the inability or difficulty in breastfeeding.
While some women can recoup by themselves in several months, untreated postpartum depression can lead to major consequences, including relationship losses and even infant harm. However, emerging research suggests that breastfeeding may have protective benefits against postpartum depression or help in a faster recovery from its symptoms.
Is It Still Safe To Breastfeed?
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, antidepressant medication needs to be vetted by the mother and her physician, but otherwise, most have little or no effect on milk production or infant health.
Breastfeeding also tends to give some mothers a positive feeling, so continuing to do so can help improve their mental and emotional well-being. However, if the act frustrates or makes it more difficult for the mother, doctors recommend alternative ways to bring the breastmilk to the baby. In this situation, breast pumps help in easing some of the stress from the mother: she can pump when it is convenient for her instead of being at the whim of the child, and it can be a good alternative to bringing breastmilk to the baby when latching is painful.
Of course, it is important to make sure that the breast pump is high-quality so that it does not add more stress to the mother’s life.
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