Postpartum Depression and Breastfeeding

80% of mothers go through some anxiety and depression after pregnancy. Most mothers don’t realize that they are depressed.

Upset woman - Photo by Claudia Wolff / Unsplash

What is Postpartum Depression?

Even under ideal circumstances, giving birth to and looking after a new life is challenging. Some tears and emotional days are expected following the birth of a new baby, but when you feel depressed for days at a time, you should talk to your doctor or midwife. Sometimes, you may need a shoulder to cry on, a hearing ear, or a few hours alone.

80% of mothers go through some anxiety and depression after pregnancy. Most mothers don’t realize that they are depressed. Mothers who do not breastfeed or are separated from their babies after birth are at a higher risk of developing postpartum blues.

The baby blues are a common part of childbirth and generally last a few weeks. Only some mothers (about 10%) may become profoundly depressed and will need to seek professional help.

depression, breastfeeding ppd
Mother holding her baby.

Signs of Postpartum Depression

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I look forward to anything anymore?
  • Have I been very emotional lately?
  • Do I feel like I’m detached from my baby?
  • Do I find it difficult to be intimate with my partner?

Other symptoms may include:

  • Feeling tearful
  • Uncertain
  • Forgetful
  • Restless or irritable
  • Having regular nightmares
  • Struggling to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Negative feelings toward your baby
  • Excessive weight gain or weight loss
  • Persistent digestive issues, pain, or headaches.

Depression Treatment

The entire family is affected when a mother feels depressed, even her baby.

  • Get at least eight hours of sleep daily.
  • Take a Postnatal Breastfeeding Multivitamin that is safe to take during breastfeeding.
  • Get as much help around the home as possible.
  • Talk about the way you feel. Talk to a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about postpartum depression and breastfeeding. Get some emotional support from somebody that you can confide in.
  • Eat a balanced diet that includes all the food groups and a variety of colorful foods, including good fats.
  • Several studies have proven that exercise can help treat depression.
  • Ask your doctor about antidepressants that are safe to use during breastfeeding.
  • Some herbs are safe to take during breastfeeding that can help with PPD.

D-MER Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex

D-MER is when a mother experiences feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and worse feelings when her milk is released (during a let-down reflex). After the reflex or after breastfeeding, the bad feelings go away, and the mother is happy again.

Can Breastfeeding Help Prevent Depression?

Oxytocin, which is one of the hormones that is released while breastfeeding, is a powerful antidepressant. Many mothers experiencing postpartum blues have been advised to stop breastfeeding, which may increase PPD symptoms.

Breastfeeding Cuts Depression Risk By Half

The breastfeeding experience has been known to assist in the healing of an abusive past, a difficult birth, or other emotional wounds. Nursing and skin-to-skin contact from birth can decrease society's high risk of depression.

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What Causes Postpartum Depression?

  • The sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone after delivery.
  • Having a family history of depression or mental health issues.
  • No support system and therefore feeling overwhelmed by everything.
  • Breastfeeding problems may cause feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.
  • Sleep deprivation causes irritability.
  • The persistent crying of a new baby.
  • A mother's changed body image.

Postpartum depression support international.

Taking Antidepressants and Breastfeeding

Most antidepressants are compatible with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is still encouraged when a mother is on antidepressants. If a mother is forced to stop breastfeeding, it can increase depression.

Effects of PPD on Mom and Baby if Mom Doesn’t Get Treatment

  • A likely increased susceptibility to psychopathology in these children.
  • Boys whose depressed mothers show ambivalence to them in the early months have higher rates of behavioral troubles and learning difficulties by age five.
  • A depressed mother is more likely to do self-harm or commit suicide.
  • Slower speech and skill development in babies.
  • Insomnia and breastfeeding problems.

Drugs to Avoid While Breastfeeding

Please speak to your lactation consultant about taking specific drugs.

  • Prozac is not recommended if a baby is younger than two months. Also, research shows that babies on Prozac might struggle with colic and be fussier than usual.
  • Zoloft is found in low concentrations in breast milk.
  • Celexa levels are high in breast milk, and babies might have side effects.
  • Effexor is not recommended because of its side effects.
  • Bupropion may reduce breast milk production.
  • Valium is not recommended as it may sedate the baby and increase the risk of SIDS “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome."
  • Tricyclics have too many harmful side effects.

Why are SSRI Drugs Safer than Other Drugs during Breastfeeding?

  • It has a success rate in patients of up to 70%.
  • It is not addictive.
  • It has no associated buzz.
  • Very mild withdrawal symptoms.
  • Side effects usually fade away over time.

Should You Wean Your Baby When on Antidepressants?

  • The benefits of continued nursing outweigh the harmful effects of taking medication while breastfeeding. You need to work with your lactation consultant to make an informed decision.
  • Quitting the breastfeeding relationship can increase depression levels.
  • Continued breastfeeding will help Mom feel stable.

Alternative Natural Treatment for Depression

  • Herbal preparations. Echinacea tea is safe while breastfeeding and is a wonderful immune-boosting tea.
  • Massage therapy.
  • Eating anti-depression foods.
  • St John's wort herb is a weak antidepressant and may create problems if taken with other medication.
  • Sometimes a more natural alternative like CBD may be considered.