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CAN BREASTFEEDING AND DEPRESSION SAFELY CO-EXIST?

A nursing mom has unique concerns when it comes to postpartum depression. She will want to learn all she can about breastfeeding and depression.

Knowledge about treatment options and the safety of medications will enable her to make the safest choices for herself and her baby.

Postpartum depression gets a lot of attention these days. That’s a good thing. The more aware people are of this condition the more likely it is a mom can get the help she needs.

tired looking mother holding sleeping baby on her shoulder

WHY DO NEW MOMS FEEL SAD?

You are probably familiar with the phenomenon known as the baby blues. Up to 80% of new moms will experience this common but temporary condition (Source).

Many a new mom has walked into my office at four days postpartum and within minutes, sometimes within seconds, she bursts into tears and then says, “I don’t know why I’m crying.” I reassure them that almost everyone cries around four days postpartum.

New moms have dramatic hormone fluctuations, sleep deprivation, and the powerful emotional effect this new little person has on you.

You may have immediately fallen in love with your new baby, and everyone knows how emotional falling in love can be.

Or falling in love with your newborn may be taking some time. This may cause you to be worried and asking yourself, “Is something wrong with me that I’m not falling in love with my new baby? “

It can take time for some moms to feel that deep connection with their new baby. There is nothing wrong with the mom who finds herself taking a little time to feel that rush of emotion.

The other thing that usually is happening around the fourth day is your milk has probably come in, and your breasts may feel like rocks. If your milk hasn’t come in then you may be concerned about that.

If you are in my office, something is probably not going well with breastfeeding, and you are worried about that.

It is the perfect storm.

BABY BLUES SYMPTOMS

The mom who is feeling emotional and teary in the early days is almost certainly experiencing a case of the baby blues.

You may also have other symptoms of postpartum baby blues.

  • Sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of impatience
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Easily irritated
  • Mood swings

The baby blues usually make their first appearance around four days after your baby arrives, and they should be gone by two weeks at the lastest.

If you are feeling teary have a good cry. Some people say to do it in the shower. I say, do it wherever you want to.

If your baby is two weeks old and you are still crying at what feels like nothing, you may have something more serious going on.

HELP FOR BABY BLUES

In a nutshell, take good care of yourself.

  • Accept offers to bring you meals.
  • Try to rest when the baby sleeps. Even if you don’t consider yourself a napper, try laying down and turning the lights off and closing your eyes.
  • Eat nutritious food.
  • Stay well hydrated.
  • Take pain medication that your healthcare provider has approved if you are experiencing pain.
  • Some women find it helpful to journal their feelings.
  • Be patient with yourself.
  • Ask for help with everyday tasks or if you are concerned about your emotional well-being.

POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION

From 10-20% of new moms will experience postpartum depression (PPD).

PPD is defined as depression that occurs within the in the first year after having a baby.

There is a spectrum of the severity of depression in the general population. PPD is no different. Post-partum depression (PPD) can be a temporary condition, or it can be a very prolonged and debilitating condition.

It is essential to have reliable information and facts about about breastfeeding and depression in order to make the best decisions for managing both the breastfeeding and the depression.

PPD SYMPTOMS

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Worry
  • Continued crying
  • Sleep issues – too much or inability to sleep at all
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Having no interest in things you normally enjoy
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Issues with being able to care for your baby
  • No emotional attachment to your baby
  • Anger or rage
  • Wanting to harm yourself
  • Wanting to harm your baby
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

You may simply feel like you are “not yourself” or that things simply don’t feel right.

It is essential for the people around you to be aware of the symptoms of PPD because some moms are not going to recognize it in themselves.

Your support people should contact your provider if they are concerned about your mental well-being.

Fortunately, there is less stigma attached to the word “depression.” Women are encouraged to get help if they are experiencing PPD.

PPD SCREENING

Increased awareness about PPD has resulted in health care providers, hospitals, and birth centers including it their discharge teaching.

Many hospitals and birth centers are sending moms home with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale screening test.

Health care providers are providing routine PPD screening at women’s postpartum check-ups.

Some providers are even making therapists part of their team.

RISK FACTORS FOR PPD

  • History of depression
  • History of anxiety disorders
  • History of mood disorders
  • PPD experience with a previous birth
  • Depression during the pregnancy
  • Women of lower socioeconomic status

HOW DEPRESSION CAN AFFECT BREASTFEEDING

The number of depressed moms is significant. Some depressed women will become pregnant, and their depression will continue throughout pregnancy and birth.

PPD occurs in approximately 10-20% of women. Women who have had suffered depression before are at higher risk for having PPD.

A mother who has ongoing depression or the new mom experiencing PPD may wonder if it will affect her ability to safely breastfeed her baby.

There are many forms of treatment and medications for depression that are compatible with breastfeeding.

TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION

Treating depression is not a DIY project.

Safe treatment is available for both depression that has been an ongoing problem as well as for PPD.

There are medications that can be used for depression when breastfeeding. There are also non-medical treatments that can be used before medications are prescriber, or in combination with medications.

Every woman’s situation is unique. You should work with your health care team to determine the appropriate treatment for your situation.

NON-PHARMACEUTICAL TREATMENTS

BREASTFEEDING AND DEPRESSION MEDICATIONS

Recommending specific medications is outside of my scope of practice. There are antidepressants that you can take if you are breastfeeding.

Medications for depression that are the best choice during pregnancy may not be the best option for the breastfeeding mother.

Discuss options with your health care and therapy team.To get the latest information on meds and breastfeeding you can check the information available on the Infant Risk Center site.

The MommyMeds app has up to date information for all types of medications. Download it to your device and have instant information at your fingertips on a wide variety of drugs.

It’s also important to keep in mind that breastfeeding has been shown to result in a decreased incidence of depression, and is yet another reason to seek breastfeeding help if you are struggling with it.

THE EFFECT OF BREASTFEEDING ON DEPRESSION

Research has indicated that breastfeeding may help lessen symptoms of depression (Source).

FINAL THOUGHTS ON BREASTFEEDING AND DEPRESSION

There are many things to consider for the breastfeeding mom who is dealing with depression.

If you are struggling with depression I encourage you to contact your health care team to help you make informed decisions by the people who know you best.

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