Maternal Mental Health And Breastfeeding: Understanding The Connection Between The Two
Addressing Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and Other Mental Health Issues
Written by Tavishi Dogra|Updated : September 22, 2023 7:54 AM IST
Motherhood brings immense joy, love, and fulfilment to a woman. However, it can accompany emotional challenges like postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety. New studies suggest breastfeeding's significant impact on a mother's mental health. While it has advantages for both mother and baby, not every woman may have a positive experience with breastfeeding. Research indicates that breastfeeding for at least six months lowers the risk of PPD. However, challenges like lactation difficulties and insufficient milk supply can lead to frustration and guilt, potentially increasing the likelihood of mental health issues. On the positive side, breastfeeding triggers the production of oxytocin and prolactin, fostering emotional bonding and relaxation, which may act as a defence against anxiety and postpartum depression. Dr Prathibha Babshet, R&D expert at Himalaya Wellness Company,shares that understanding this connection is crucial for supporting new moms during this transformative stage.
Postpartum Depression And Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has physiological and emotional advantages over formula feeding, and research suggests it may lower the incidence of postpartum depression.
Anxiety and Breastfeeding: Anxiety among new mothers is triggered by the responsibilities and uncertainties of caring for a newborn. Symptoms include excessive worry, restlessness, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. While both conditions can coexist and share some overlapping symptoms, they have distinct emotional focuses and impacts on bonding. Anxiety may be alleviated through breastfeeding, which releases the Oxytocin hormone, promoting serenity and relaxation. Seeking professional support and early intervention are essential for managing these mental health challenges during the postpartum period.
Challenges and Support for Breastfeeding Mothers: Despite the potential advantages for maternal mental health, it is crucial to recognize that breastfeeding can be challenging and may not be a positive experience for many women. Lactation problems, such as insufficient milk production, sore nipples, breast engorgement, and infections, can lead to pain, stress, and feelings of failure in moms who struggle with breastfeeding. Hence, comprehensive support is essential to promote positive mental well-being outcomes for breastfeeding mothers.
Timely medical intervention is necessary to address lactation challenges and provide much-needed relief to breastfeeding mothers. Building a loving and nurturing environment within communities and families, along with the involvement of healthcare providers, can make a significant difference in supporting breastfeeding moms.
Information, education, and emotional support on breastfeeding to new moms can help alleviate the difficulties and stress associated with breastfeeding.
Moreover, promoting lactation through appropriate nutrition is equally important. Consuming foods that support healthy prolactin hormone levels can ensure optimal breastfeeding and enhance the bonding experience between a mother and the baby.
Breastfeeding can be a complex and emotional journey, and the content, connection, and challenges can vary significantly from one mother to another. Some moms may find breastfeeding a source of joy and emotional bonding with their children, while others may face challenges that significantly impact their mental well-being.