Is there a connection between Postpartum Depression and Breastfeeding?

Motherhood is a beautiful yet an arduous journey. As we are celebrating the National Breastfeeding awareness month, let us remind ourselves that breastfeeding is a boon for the child. However, some mothers face difficulties in breastfeeding. Postpartum depression while breastfeeding is a reality many new mothers suffer silently. They are also reluctant to communicate their distress to their families fearing of being judged and tagged as “a bad mother”;

It becomes difficult for families to understand these symptoms also known as “baby blues”.

According to a world-wide survey, released by the World health Organization, 10% of women experience depression during pregnancy, while 13% of them experience some kind of mental disorder, primarily depression. Paradoxically, the rate of postpartum depression is higher in developed countries. Another survey released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every one in nine women suffers from postpartum depression in the United States.

What is Postpartum Depression (PPD) and How to Recognize the Symptoms?

Postpartum depression is a form of depression in new mothers that develops within one week to one year after childbirth. Approximately 80% mothers experience symptoms of “baby blues” due to sleep deprivation, exhaustion and imbalanced emotions. The reason behind these symptoms of blues is hormonal imbalance after child birth in addition to the stress level and new challenges in nurturing the baby. Postpartum depression impacts the functioning capability of a new mother, but the degree of impact depends on the severity of the PPD.

Symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD) include:

  • Experiencing sadness
  • Overwhelming emotions
  • Hopelessness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Crying without any reason
  • Difficulty in connecting and bonding with the baby
  • Self-doubt in the ability to care for the baby
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Over sleeping
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts

What Are the Risks and Social Stigma Associated with Postpartum Depression? 

Multiple factors can contribute towards postpartum depression such as:

  • Family history of anxiety and depression
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Thyroid problem
  • Lack of social support
  • Substance abuse
  • Birth defect
  • Breastfeeding issues
  • Moreover, nearly 20% of mothers develop PPD without any reason

There is enormous social stigma associated with PPD that doesn’t allow the new mother enduring PPD to seek treatment. Many new mothers are embarrassed and ashamed to admit of being anxious or depressed fearing societal judgment. Families too fail to understand the transition phase of a new mother.

How does PPD Affect the Baby?

A mother’s mental health plays a crucial role in the baby’s overall development. A depressed and anxious mother is less likely to nurture and develop positive bonding with her baby, which can result in negative outcomes such as:

  • The baby might face difficulty to thrive
  • It can lead to poor development in the baby
  • Signs of sleep regression might develop in the baby
  • It can trigger emotional and behavioral problems in children as they grow up
  • The child might face learning problems

Postpartum Depression and Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural process that helps in developing a connection between a new mother and her baby. But for some mothers it might prove to quite a task due to many reasons such as problem in latching, insufficient breast milk, problem in feeding due to breast injury or infection or finding it hectic to feed on demand because of inadequate sleep.

When a mother faces hardship in nursing, it leads to a feeling of sadness and guilt.  This eventually contributes towards developing symptoms of PPD. Some studies have suggested breastfeeding can alleviate symptoms of PPD. However, many studies have also shown contradicting results of breastfeeding exacerbating the symptoms of PPD. The link between breastfeeding and PPD is still unknown, but as families we can help and encourage new mothers to build a healthy bond with her baby. Families should support new mothers instead of setting expectations and blaming.

As per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), six months of breastfeeding is paramount for babies to develop immunity. But, if a mother faces difficulty in breastfeeding and her symptoms of PPD deteriorate, it is advisable for her to choose alternative feeding methods. However, one should always seek advice on breastfeeding from a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant can guide new mothers to achieve breastfeeding goals and help them in choosing appropriate ways of nursing.

What Are the Treatments Available for Postpartum Depression?

There is a plethora of treatment programs available for postpartum depression ranging from talk therapy to one-to-one counseling to support groups and medications. A new mother grappling with PPD should seek medical help immediately. Families should also support and understand the symptoms of PPD. Therapies or combination of therapies can surely help mothers to recover from PPD.

Many mothers also shy away from taking medications like antidepressants for PPD fearing they can impact breastfeeding. But, medicines taken under supervision of experts and lactation consultants have least impact on breastfeeding.

How We Can Help?

Medical concierge provides peer support to new mothers battling postpartum depression. We provide wide range of therapies and personalized treatment plans as per medical assessment and severity of symptoms. To know more about our treatment plans call us at our 24/7 toll free number 877-636-0042 or you can chat with our online representatives to learn more about us.

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