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BreastFeeding And Your Mental Health

3 months ago | Medical

Hey! before you say this has nothing to do with you and scroll, we think it has a lot to do with you than you think because… first of all, It's World Breastfeeding Week 2021 and chances are that you just might know someone who is currently breastfeeding, about to start breastfeeding or will breastfeed in the nearest future and you will be playing a big role by either sharing this with them or even reading up by yourself and sharing when you’re done. So, why exactly do you need to read up on breastfeeding? and what has mental health got to do with breastfeeding?


Well, Breastfeeding is an intimate activity that requires sustained mother-child physical contact. A new mother (regardless of whether this is her first child or not) is likely to have different experiences with each child that she bears and breastfeeds. Just the way no two pregnancies are alike, no two breastfeeding terms are the same.


Research has shown over time that breastfeeding has positive effects on the mental health of both mother and child. These benefits include but are not limited to improved mood and stress levels in the mother, lower risk of postpartum depression, enhanced social-emotional development in the child, stronger mother-child bonding and more. 

While this is a good thing, there, unfortunately, is a growing population of people who do not exactly enjoy these benefits. There is also a rise in the high priority need for Breastfeeding promotion and support for mothers who are experiencing difficulties or early cessation in breastfeeding.


New mothers with symptoms of depression, including increased anxiety and a tendency to avoid their child, are less likely to breastfeed their child. Some of the risk factors for maternal mental illness may include (but are not limited to): Traumatic birth experience, Family/personal history of mental illness, Depressive symptoms during pregnancy, History of physical/sexual or childhood trauma, Lack of social supports, marital strains, Low self-esteem, body image distress, Infant with a challenging temperament, Unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, Lower socioeconomic status, Financial hardships, Obstetric and pregnancy complications, Medical complications with baby, losing a loved one, chronic illness, etc.


These risk factors, in combination with the physical, emotional, and mental stressors mothers face throughout their journeys, can trigger the development of a maternal mental illness, such as postpartum depression or anxiety. So, how do we ensure that mental health is intact while breastfeeding


1. Create a Unique feeding plan for you and your baby: Feeding a baby is not a one size fits all plan. Mothers need to understand that they have the liberty and flexibility to create an individualized feeding plan to work for their family’s unique needs. This may include a combination of feeding on demand, bottle feeding, pumping, supplemental feedings or various other things.

In a country like ours (Nigeria) a worthy warning would be to ‘’Not let outside rules dictate what you should or shouldn’t do for your family” How you feed your baby is ultimately more important than what you feed your baby.


2. Focus on Yourself Also: This might seem irrelevant but one of the best ways to take care of your baby is by taking care of you too. Nourishing your body as best as you possibly can, as well as prioritizing sleep and stress management, can help support your physical recovery and overall mental health.


3. Connect! Connect!! Connect!!!: Meet with other new mums! You’d be surprised how much this will help. Having non-judgmental support is crucial for your post-partum journey as a new mum. This can include a breastfeeding support group, therapist, and postpartum dietitian nutritionist, in addition to your perinatal health care provider. Breastfeeding mothers do not need to walk through the journey alone. Having your team lined up can help you build your village as you transition into motherhood.

Educating mothers (and wider family members) as to what normal patterns of breastfeeding are like plays an important role in reducing both breastfeeding difficulties and emotional distress around breastfeeding. We hope you found this insightful. Please feel free to share with as many as you can.


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