Many new moms can experience what is commonly known as the baby blues in the first week, and sometimes a little longer, after bringing their baby home. There are a lot of new adjustments to your lifestyle, and everything can sometimes feel very overwhelming.
With all of the body and hormonal changes rapidly happening, it’s important to understand how women’s health works along with their individual risk of postpartum depression and how their breastfeeding journey could affect the overall picture. While there have been many studies completed figuring out, the ties between breastfeeding and postpartum depression still need more definitive research.
Breastfeeding and Depression
There are many common symptoms of postpartum depression, but what can be tricky is that several of these symptoms can easily be confused with part of the transition to becoming a mom. Things like lack of sleep, irritability, low mood, and feelings of sadness could all be considered very normal steps in the postpartum period.
Your situation can also depend on any past history of anxiety disorder, depressive symptoms, or traumatic experiences that can all affect maternal mental health while breastfeeding. Sometimes women can begin feeling depressed if they attempt to breastfeed but are unable to.
They begin to have negative feelings about themselves and their ability to provide for their baby. Depression can also come into play when a new mom is struggling to feel any kind of momentum in their journey and instead are coming up against consistent challenges such as not being able to get the baby to latch properly, mastitis, or a variety of other breastfeeding issues.
Can Depression Affect Your Breastfeeding Journey?
Major depression can definitely affect the breastfeeding journey for new mothers. The behaviors that come with depression can cause a significant decrease in milk production and can also have a negative effect on their mental and emotional health. It may affect the immune properties of breast milk.
Many new moms have higher levels of cortisol in their system as a stress response due to the pregnancy and postpartum phases. This can be a risk factor for a low milk supply, along with rises and dips in their moods and stress levels. This physiological response can cause many new moms to have a negative experience with breastfeeding before they really get a chance to get into a routine.
Breastfeeding on Antidepressants
Many women who have mental health issues prior to pregnancy and are already on medication can speak with their healthcare provider regarding what are the best options for them as they become a breastfeeding mom in regard to their current prescription regimen and what can safely be taken during the breastfeeding journey.
If your body is well-adjusted to antidepressants to help keep your brain chemicals functioning at their most efficient and keeping mood swings and other imbalances in check, then it might not be the best idea to try and quit cold turkey when attempting breastfeeding.
The best thing to do is to be open with your healthcare provider and your postpartum team to see what are the best options for you and your baby. Keep in mind that you are going to be adding less sleep and other hormonal changes in a very short amount of time that can all have adverse effects on your mental health!
Working Through Postpartum Depression While Breastfeeding
There have been many studies completed that show that breastfed babies have a variety of added health benefits from the very beginning. While we would love to see everyone be able to successfully go through the breastfeeding experience, we also know that sometimes that is much easier said than done.
It’s important that you put together a strong support system before your baby is even born. A few of our favorite resources include
- An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to give you support and knowledge that you just can’t get anywhere else.
- Family members who are willing to help and be there when you need them most.
- Support Groups of other moms currently on their breastfeeding journeys, as well as those who have already been there and have some valuable experiences to share.
- Your family doctor and local medical professionals that you can call if you feel there is something beyond what others can offer you in regards to appropriate treatment. If you are at high risk for depression or any other mental illness, this is a resource you want to keep at the top of your list to reach out to if you feel that things are becoming overwhelming.
- We also really like the book This Isn't What I Expected as a good resource to keep on hand.
Many new moms struggle with the risk of depression along their breastfeeding journey simply from lack of support. They begin to feel that they have to do everything all of the time, and between sleep deprivation and steep hormonal changes, the mother’s mental health begins to really take a dive.
The good news is that when you are able to look beyond that and see that there are many people out there who can help you, along with treatment options for severe symptoms, you can begin to feel not quite so alone and that there is hope to not only be able to successfully breastfeed your baby, but to actually enjoy the experience along the way! It has actually been shown that exclusive breastfeeding may help to reduce symptoms of depression from childbirth to 3 months postpartum!
If you are struggling with any severe symptoms and worry about postpartum psychosis or any other overwhelming feelings that you don’t feel you are receiving the correct support for, we encourage you to reach out to the postpartum hotline.
We know that having a new baby comes with a lot of changes in so many areas of your life, including physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions for any problem, however, there are always available resources that are there to help you find a way to the other side. We encourage each mom to reach their own breastfeeding goals, whatever those might be.
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