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Depression During Breastfeeding

Holding your newborn infant in your arms for the first time is a joy, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. Some moms, new and seasoned alike, may experience depression after giving birth. Although there is no single cause for these postpartum blues, some studies, such as 2011 research published in the journal "Obstetrics and Gynecology," point toward a correlation between depression and breastfeeding. If you do experience depression after having your baby, there are treatments that will help you feel better and allow you to continue breastfeeding. If you feel you can’t manage breastfeeding because of your depression, don't despair. Your doctor will guide you toward alternative methods of providing healthy nourishment for your newborn.

RELATED: Signs of Postpartum Depression

Signs of Depression

After giving birth, it’s normal for a change in hormones to make you feel a bit down in the dumps. This is known as “baby blues.” However, if you experience overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, worry, guilt or moodiness, you may want to see your doctor about postpartum depression. Other signs include headaches, aches and pains and a loss of interest in things that matter to you, including breastfeeding. Be reassured, though, that postpartum depression is temporary and treatable, and breastfeeding during this time can still be a positive experience.

Effects on Lactation

When your wee one latches onto your breast and begins to suckle, she stimulates nerves in your nipple that release the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin causes your milk glands to contract and squeeze the milk out. This is called the let-down reflex. There are times, however, when issues such as sore nipples, surgery, lack of sleep, anxiety and stress may affect your ability to nurse. These factors can cause inflammation in the body, which in turn may lead to depression, explains a 2007 review in the "International Breastfeeding Journal."

Protection Against Depression

Breastfeeding may be beneficial in cases of postpartum depression. The research published in the “International Breastfeeding Journal” suggests that, when breastfeeding is progressing smoothly, it may ease stress and reduce the inflammatory process that is thought to encourage depression. Because discomfort or difficulties with breastfeeding are risk factors for depression, seek help from your doctor right away if you are having any issues. Breastfeeding is not only good for baby, but it also has a calming affect on you and increases your ability to nurture. If breastfeeding must be discontinued, your doctor can suggest other ways for you to feed your baby as well as techniques and treatments to help you feel more relaxed.

RELATED: Nutrition for Breast Feeding

Overcoming Depression

Recognizing postpartum depression and applying strategies to deal with it are key in keeping both you and baby happy. Because women who have early negative experiences with breastfeeding are more likely to become depressed around two months postpartum, "Obstetrics and Gynecology" researchers suggest that women be routinely screened at that time so difficulties can be identified early. Seeking help from a lactation consultant to address pain and technique issues may help increase your confidence and make breastfeeding a more pleasant experience. If you think you may be depressed, talk to your physician who may prescribe medications or suggest other ways to get the relief you need. If you’re worried that drugs may affect your little one through your breast milk, rest assured that there are anti-depression medications that won't affect your baby.

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