Every year, 15 to 25 percent of women are diagnosed with postpartum depression.
In the past, breastfeeding women who received this diagnosis were advised to wean from breastfeeding in order to reduce their stress. However, some mothers felt like breastfeeding was positive in their life and something they wanted to continue.
Breastfeeding may reduce your risk
As we advance in health care, several studies have shown that breastfeeding can be helpful for the reduction or management of depression, and mothers should be supported in their decision to continue if they want to.
Studies show that although breastfeeding and postpartum depression intersect, breastfeeding does not create depression. Breastfeeding itself does not deplete mothers of their energy or capacity to “cope,” but breastfeeding problems can. When mothers are well supported by family, their medical team, and proper lactation, they can be successful with breastfeeding and postpartum depression can be managed well.
When mothers breastfeed, both their stress response and their inflammatory levels decrease, which not only counteracts their depression but also helps prevent other health issues like cardiovascular disease. According to these studies, breastfeeding is actually a protective factor in helping mothers prevent and cope with depression.
It’s okay to ask for help
When mothers are experiencing depression, it is important to help them work through the different treatment choices available to them in order to support their recovery. For example, if a mother is just given antidepressant medication and no follow-up support, she is more likely to discontinue taking the medication, and then will continue to suffer. Some mothers may not want to take medication and may want help with treating their depression in other ways. It is important to supply the mother with all options and, no matter what, to support her decision for treatment.
If you are a mother suffering from postpartum depression, you can be reassured in knowing that you do not need to wean from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding with proper support can actually help you manage your depression and protect you from other diseases.
If you feel like you are experiencing postpartum depression, please seek medical attention and work with a lactation consultant on your options. If you have no one to talk to, please email our lactation team at [email protected] for assistance in finding a local provider.