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Are Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression Linked?

Postpartum depression affects many mothers, and some researchers explored the link between breastfeeding and postpartum depression.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University wanted to study the link between breastfeeding and postpartum depression. They studied 29,685 women from 26 different states. They hoped to expand off of prior studies, which were hindered by their small samples, which yielded ungeneralizable results due to higher levels of education, income, and race. 

Postpartum Depression

Pregnancy and giving birth is a major thing for the body to endure. It’s unsurprising that many women feel a hugely confusing mix of emotions after the fact. Women who continue to feel these emotionless, empty, sad feelings longer than 2 weeks after giving birth should be aware of postpartum depression. 

Many women experience “baby blues” after giving birth, but when those feelings don’t go away, it may be an indication of a larger problem. Postpartum depression is an extremely serious mental illness that can affect both mental and physical health. When the “baby blues” are persistent and begin to interfere with daily life, they may indicate postpartum depression.

With all the changes that a woman’s body undergoes through pregnancy and giving birth, it’s normal to feel emotionally imbalanced after giving birth. But if these feelings persist for more than 2 weeks after giving birth, it may be time to reach out to your doctor and seek help. Image courtesy of GoodTherapy.


One in every 9 new mothers experiences postpartum depression. The immense hormonal changes that a woman undergoes during pregnancy and giving birth are the main cause of this problem. For women who have postpartum depression, there is also an increased risk of later issues like cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Women with a history of mental illness, specifically depression or bipolar disorder, are more at risk for postpartum depression.

Here are some symptoms that are commonly associated with postpartum depression: 

  • Feelings of restlessness or moodiness
  • Hopelessness, sadness, or feeling overwhelmed 
  • Crying a lot 
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby 
  • No interest in connecting with your baby
  • Feeling as if your baby belongs to someone else
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Little to no energy or motivation 
  • Sleeping too little or too much 
  • Memory problems 
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy 

Some women may feel like they shouldn’t share their symptoms because of shame and embarrassment, but these feelings are valid and should be shared with a doctor or nurse. Treatments include therapy and medication.

Breastfeeding

For women who are able to breastfeed, it can be a healthy source of sole nutrition for your baby for about 6 months. After that, women may choose to continue breastfeeding in combination with other forms of nutrition. 

Breastfeeding promotes healthy growth for a baby. It comes with excellent nutrition and developmental benefits for an infant. 

Breastfeeding is beneficial to both mother and baby. Mothers may find that breastfeeding allows them to build a connection with their baby, as well as helping them to heal more quickly from childbirth. 


Breastfeeding can also be beneficial for new mothers. It releases good hormones that lead to feelings of fulfillment and joy, as well as fostering a connection with their child. Mothers who breastfeed may also recover from childbirth more quickly, and may also have a reduced risk of developing later complications like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Details of the Study 

29,685 women were asked about their breastfeeding status and postpartum depression. Researchers used results from the 2016 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System questionnaire. Age, race, marital status, education, abuse before and during pregnancy, and cigarette smoking were all factors taken into account. 

Postpartum depression is a serious problem that affects countless mothers. If you are experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression, such as feelings of worthlessness and little connection to your baby, reach out to your doctor to discuss your feelings. 


Researchers hoped to discern whether breastfeeding lowers the risk of postpartum depression. They also hoped to find a link between the amount of time that a woman breastfeeds and her risk of postpartum depression. 

Findings

The statistics showed that there is a “significant lower risk of postpartum depression” in women who were breastfeeding compared to those that were not. The results also indicated that “as the number of weeks that women breastfed increased, their postpartum depression decreased.” One result that they described as “unexpected” was that women with varying breastfeeding intent (yes, no, or unsure) had no significant difference in risk of postpartum depression. 

The results of the study indicate that “breastfeeding is a cost efficient and healthy behavior that can decrease a woman’s risk for postpartum depression. Safiya George, Ph.D., said that nurses, in particular, play an important role in educating new mothers and advocating for the benefits of breastfeeding. 

Women who have experienced postpartum depression also have a 50% increased risk of suffering from it again in subsequent deliveries. They also have a 25% increased risk of developing depressive disorders that are unrelated to childbirth for up to 11 years.

Postpartum depression is a serious issue, and women should not feel embarrassed if they are suffering from any of the symptoms. It is common in new mothers. This study has emphasized a correlation between breastfeeding and postpartum depression, something that new mothers may want to keep in mind. 

Any new mother who is experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression should be communicative with their doctor or nurse, and know that there are ways of treatment and management. 

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