I'm a day late on this one, but this is such an important topic that I would be remiss if I didn't address it. Yesterday was maternal mental health awareness day. It was a day to think about postpartum mood disorders and their impact on women.
Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are common, and they can create misery for women during a vulnerable and sensitive time in their lives. Raising awareness helps us as a society be more supportive of new moms.
If you think that you are experiencing postpartum depression then you should seek help right away. Don't be ashamed. You are not alone. There are effective treatments available to you.
Treating postpartum depression is important because untreated depression can be harmful to both mother and baby. There are a number of treatments that are safe during breastfeeding. Many nursing mothers are afraid to take medication, but it is better to treat your depression than continue to suffer because of a fear of medication.
Some have suggested that breastfeeding can prevent postpartum depression, but we know that breastfeeding doesn't prevent all cases of postpartum depression. Plenty of breastfeeding mothers suffer with the condition. Studies show that breastfeeding mothers are less likely to experience depression compared to their formula feeding counterparts. However, it is unclear whether or not this is due to any protective effects of breastfeeding. In other words, there is a correlation but no clear causation.
Most experts suspect that the connection has more to do with the stress that depression places on the nursing experience. Often depressed mothers find breastfeeding overwhelming. In fact, having trouble with breastfeeding may be a symptom of depression, particularly if these breastfeeding struggles are associated with guilt. Depression can cause women to doubt their ability to parent and their ability to breastfeed. In other words, depression hurts a mother's self-confidence and makes her less likely to breastfeed and more likely experience feelings of inadequacy because of her difficulty with breastfeeding.
So remember, if you are struggling with breastfeeding then take some time to reflect on whether or not this is a symptom of underlying depression. If you are depressed then you should seek help. Treating your depression is likely to make breastfeeding and parenting a more positive experience for you.