Postpartum Depression and Breastfeeding: It’s Real, and It’s Not Spectacular

In the wake of my blog battle with Nursing Birth (due to me commenting that it was irresponsible to connect not breastfeeding with PPD without explicitly discussing the many levels to why there might be a link between the two – for example, maybe depression effects milk supply, causing many women with PPD to have difficulties nursing; or, maybe the fact that they are unable to breastfeed for some reason is part and parcel of their PPD – so yes, while many women with PPD also do not breastfeed, that does not mean that if you choose not to breastfeed, you will get PPD, and I feel like many interpretations I’ve seen of this study are suggesting that to people who may not understand the subtleties here… but I digress), I was beyond ecstatic to see this superb post on Postpartum ProgressFrom Boob to Bottle: Postpartum Depression & The Unnecessary Shame of Quitting Breastfeeding.

Read through the comments, and you will find that this is such a common experience. I think it is important that we talk about this, and all things having to do with baby blues. Even if you aren’t unlucky enough to get an actual case of postpartum depression, many moms still deal with tears, anxiety, fear… lots of emotions that make for an experience nothing like the ones movies portray – those first dewy days of motherhood? More like a waking nightmare, for some.

The author, Katherine Stone, explains:

I tried all those other curious contraptions that you wrap all around your boobs so that you can succeed at doing THE-ONE-THING-EVERY-MOTHER-MUST-DO-NO-MATTER-WHAT!  I read the how-tos and followed them step by step.  It didn’t matter.  Plus, what little breastfeeding I was able to eke out had me so worried about how much milk he was getting I practically had anxiety attacks.  So I quit.  And I felt enormous relief.  And I felt guilty that I was so relieved… 

Not everyone needs to quit, of course.  Some people find breastfeeding is the only thing that helps them hang on to what’s left of their sanity.  Others, like me, find quitting helps them on the road to sanity. Just make the right choice for you and know that we are on your side, whatever side that is.

Amen, sister.  A big, rousing, cheering “amen”.

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.

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8 thoughts on “Postpartum Depression and Breastfeeding: It’s Real, and It’s Not Spectacular

  1. This is something i really want to look into when i have more time (ha!). I actually put the fact i DIDNT suffer from PPD (as i have a history of depression, …infact i was clinically depressed for 10 years yo!) down to me NOT breastfeeding and Formula feeding from day 1 – simply because of all the anxiety and stress i was feeling about it.

    I got baby blues, for sure. Day 3-4 in hospital was hell… but thats to be expected when nurses are bullying you left right and center to breastfeed and you have been cut in half and can't even move to the toilet without looking like a decrepit old woman. Once i was home we did so great.

    I have serious suspicions people wouldn't suffer so much from PPD if there was less shame and less pressure. I eman who in their right mind can keep upbeat and positive when they are up 13290183 times a night and then feeling like a failure?

  2. Great blog! I wanted to share some information on a book that you may find interesting. It's called A Social History of Wet Nursing and it discusses the use of wet nurses from the 18th Century until the mid-20th century, when formula became the norm. It's really interesting to see how plenty of women had trouble breastfeeding in the past and why formula feeding became popular.

    Review of the book

    An excerpt from the book.

  3. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett is a psychologist and lactation consultant who has done some really interesting research into the field of breastfeeding and PPD that I think would be of interest to you. Some of her findings have been that breastfeeding and the associated hormones help women fight PPD, but breastfeeding challenges are a risk factor for PPD (not shocking to women who've struggled with breastfeeding). Definitely worth looking into, no matter which side of the “debate” you're on.
    I'm a proud lactivist, but recognize that a lot of moms here in the US are being set up for breastfeeding failure. They're told “breast is best” but not given proper support when the inevitable challenges occur. The bottom line is that all women need better breastfeeding and emotional support.


  4. Thanks for this blog. I had my son in 2007, before you were writing here, but I went through something so similar! I'm so glad that you are writing about your experiences, as the shame about not breastfeeding and ppd is so real…..bless you!

  5. Glad Katherine Stone shared the link to this blog! Thank you for speaking up about the challenges of breastfeeding and the decision to breastfeed vs bottlefeed is a highly personal one. I agree with Anonymous….women do need better breastfeeding and emotional support, particularly if society seems so bent on pushing Breast is Best.

  6. Just wanted to throw this in there. My cousin chose not to breastfeed. She's using formula and is now on meds for post partum depression. I (who actually has a history of depression am breastfeeding an feeling better than ever. Even when I'm upset, I realize thy as soon as my milk let's down, I get a “bonding” type feeling. I've heard pitocin may be involved during this process and I'm able to stay drug free. Hoping to stay away from prescriptions forever!! I hated taking pills (prior to pregnancy). When I found out I was pregnant, I quit cold turkey against my docs wishes but my baby is 6 months old now and I don't regret it as I've often seen commercials about anti depressants being linked to birth defects…anyways, just my experience. 🙂

  7. Nadia. Thank you for your post. I was feeling great aftet I had my baby girl. I was having trouble breastfeeding but i< kept on trucking. So I was doing both bottle feeding aand breast. But at 6 months she refused the breast I felt confused. Since March 26 of this year I have been suffering from PPD. I don´t like taking meds, but i guess for now this is what it is. I have had depression in the past like about 12 episodes during 15 years. I feel like this is a nightmare.I was so high and happy breat feeding, and was not worried about the future. Now everything seems dark and very lonely. My husband finds it hard to support yet another one of my ¨depressions¨¨. I hope that we women can find a cure or answer. Feeling confused and lost without ground. Alot people and men have no clue how to deal with this or support this.

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