Postpartum depression, trouble breast-feeding go together

A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has found that mothers who struggle to breast-feed in the first two weeks after giving birth are more prone to postpartum depression.

The study, which was published in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, looked at data from 2,586 women in the government-funded Infant Feeding and Practices Study II, which assessed issues of feeding and depression. Nine percent of the women fell into the category of “major depression.”

The scientists are clear on if problems breast feeding leads to depression or vice versa but they do see a correlation to the two occurring together.

From Time Healthland:

“Clearly all women who have pain breast-feeding are not depressed, but the message for clinicians is to look not just at baby’s mouth and the boob but to also look at mom’s brain,” says Dr. Alison Stuebe, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology in the UNC School of Medicine. “The mind has to be part of the evaluation.”…

“Women who reported dissatisfaction with breast-feeding early on were 42% more likely to have postpartum depression two months after delivery compared with women who enjoyed breast-feeding. Mothers who initially experienced severe breast pain initially and at two weeks postpartum were twice as likely to be depressed as pain-free women. Depression, in general, has been linked to increased pain sensitivity, which may explain why depressed women have more pain while breast-feeding.”

“The association is unlikely to be coincidental. In a pilot study Stuebe is conducting, she’s found that new moms who report feeling anxious have lower levels of oxytocin — the feel-good hormone that courses through the body while nursing — during feeding. ‘Is there something hormonal in women who are depressed that makes breast-feeding less enjoyable?” she says.’ ”

So what do you do for these women? Stuebe says she is happy with all the support the government is now giving to encourage women to nurse and to nurse longer and you don’t want to backpedal from that. However she thinks health providers should be having conversation with mothers about their particular case.

“ ‘And if, for this mother, and this baby, extracting milk and delivering it to her infant have overshadowed all other aspects of their relationship, it may be that exclusive breast-feeding is not best for them – in fact, it may not even be good for them’ .”

“Says Stuebe: ‘A lot of the pain that women experience with breast-feeding reflects the now-outdated concept that moms have to power through, no matter what. It is helpful to have a more honest, realistic expectation of motherhood as a whole.’ ”

Holy cow this all sounds so familiar! I had a very painful time breast-feeding my first child and went into a depression with her that I never experienced with either of my other two. I injured my nipple at the hospital nursing the first time. I left the baby on too long one side (Who knew? It was the first time I had ever done it!) And from that point on it hurt terribly to nurse on that side. Along with that I developed yeast on my breasts which no one diagnosed for three months despite going to the gynecologist, who just told me to stop nursing.

It was sheer torture to nurse Rose 12 times a day and I dreaded it. I was crying all the time.

The day we finally figured out it was yeast and got medicine on my breast was the greatest day ever. I felt so much better.

I absolutely can see how these depression and nursing trouble go hand-in-hand.

Did you have trouble nursing and postpartum depression? Did you see a correlation? How did you handle?

55 comments Add your comment

[...] Postpartum depression, trouble breast-feeding go togetherAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)The study, which was published in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, looked at data from 2586 women in the government-funded Infant Feeding and Practices Study II, which assessed issues of feeding and depression. Nine percent of the women fell … [...]

shaggy

August 10th, 2011
6:56 am

See….these moms have VERY hard jobs.
I can’t imagine having a baby slurping on my nipples. The very thought of it makes me shudder.
Thank the lucky stars that I had one to do it for me.

homeschooler

August 10th, 2011
7:27 am

This is just another one of those “duh….” studies to me. Of course women who have trouble breast feeding get depressed (probably because there is so damn much emphasis on how important it is and women are made to feel horrible if they can’t or won’t do it). Also, if a woman happens to be depressed, she will have trouble breast feeding. So…”duh”. I could have told them that without them having to do a study.
I loved breast feeding my children but my first was getting so little milk he was diagnosed “failure to thrive” at his 6 week check up. He cried the first 6 weeks because he was starving and I just kept reading the damn books that said “don’t suppliment with formula, just keep feeding”. I even brought him in between doctor visits to be weighed and the nurses treated me like I was just an over cautious new mom. I went against every motherly instinct because of society and those books. I still wonder if his first 6 weeks of life would have been a totally different experience if I had just trusted myself.
When my daughter was born, I tried again (for 6 days). The first time she wanted to nurse 20 minutes after I had just fed her, I gave her a bottle and never looked back.
I never got depressed but can totally see how I could have if I was prone to depression.
Just an aside..My children are the healthiest children you could imagine. My son has never been on an antibiotic. Neither of my children have ever had a stomach virus (they are almost 8 and 11). They get over colds in a matter of days. There is way too much emphasis on breast feeding. A mother’s peace of mind is much more important.

Jeff

August 10th, 2011
7:58 am

Ummm, well, yeah, I got nothin.

mom2alex&max

August 10th, 2011
8:23 am

I concur with homeschooler here. Maybe if there wasn’t so much emphasis on making you feel like a failure as a woman and a mother for not being able to breastfeed, we wouldn’t get so depressed.

I sure wish someone would have told me it was ok to bottle fed. It would have saved me days of aggravation for me and my son.

RJ

August 10th, 2011
8:28 am

I was young when I had my first and had no idea what I was doing. My doctor never discussed breastfeeding with me, so I used formula. My child had so many problems on formula. It took us going through several formulas before we found what worked. Addtionally, she kept ear infections. We were constantly in the ER because her fever would get extremely high and then find out it was another ear infection. I had so many guilty feelings about this later when I learned about the advantages of breast milk.

When I had my second I took breastfeeding classes and was determined to nurse. It was painful, but not so much that I couldn’t take it. I truly feel it was the best decision I could’ve made. He wasn’t throwing up his milk, he was eating happily. Once I stopped nursing, he got an ear infection! The doctor assured me it was just coincidence, but of course I was convinced it was because I stopped too soon.

Ultimately this is about individual choice. I highly recommend nursing. I will be nursing this next one. However if a mom finds it too difficult I say do formula. The most important thing is making sure that your child is getting the nutrients they need.

Lori

August 10th, 2011
8:32 am

I experienced this as well with my first. I had trouble breast feeding. My son was premmie and had trouble latching on. I tried pumping for weeks and continuing offering him the breast as well, but he just never learned. It was so much easier for him to get the bottle that he stopped trying to get milk from me. I felt like a failure. I had very major depression (like drugs and therapy kind of depression). I don’t know if it necessarily was related to not being able to breastfeed, but who knows whats going on with all the crazy hormones!!

I hope this time is better. I’m due in 2 months. This time I’m arming myself with better info and trying to read up and take classes on breastfeeding so I’ll be better prepared for the challenges.

motherjanegoose

August 10th, 2011
8:40 am

I nursed both of mine. Yes, I had a cracked/bleeding nipple and winced with pain for days with my son.( No,I do not have a perfect life and sorry if that is TMI ) I did not have the help of a La Leche League, where I lived. I did have a friend who I called and she helped me through it. I nursed them for 11 and 9 months. Things were much better with my daughter. I was more frustrated than depressed, as my own mother tried to talk me out of it, Both of mine had ear infections and colds too. They had their share of antibiotics and prescriptions for allergies. Probably due to being around other children in preschool but their immunities were built up by the time they went to the classroom in Kinder. I loved breast feeding and it worked ( eventually ) for me.

JJ

August 10th, 2011
8:54 am

I’m pretty sure we have already covered this topic several times.

motherjanegoose

August 10th, 2011
8:55 am

Off topic…can some of you hop over to yesterday’s topic on buy or send school lunch and answer my question as a reply to lwa who commented on smokewagon’s post. I am very curious and do not know. It is something I have no experience with. Thanks! Jeff…you can perhaps help here!

Quincy

August 10th, 2011
9:25 am

I tend to agree with homeschooler; with all the studies and constant analysis as it relates to parenting in general and motherhood in particular, perhaps women who experience a slight glitch in the lactation department, might experience a slight, temporary bout of depression. As far as “postpartum” depression is concerned, my one unscientific research (my ex-wife) suggests that perhaps some women are predisposed to become depressed, or in fact, knowingly or unkowingly suffer from depression before becoming a mother? This is to say, that depression is depression and the fact that some M.D. or shrink needs to create a new and improved depression for new moms, is somewhat redundant in my book. In other words; understand depression (causes/treatments) and you’ll understand postpartum depression. It’s like the whole “hate crime” approach; ALL assaults/murders originate from a hateful place, to attempt to further quantify criminal behavior is political at best. I am not suggesting postpartum depression is a political issue; it is a mental health issue. As I said, depression is depression. Perhaps depression is the “cause” of breast feeding problems, and not the other way around.

JATL

August 10th, 2011
9:31 am

@Homeschooler -you said it perfectly! I refused to stress about breastfeeding, had a low supply (evidently genetic from both sides), supplemented and partiallybreastfed the first for four months and the second for six weeks. Both are healthy, strong and smart! I have yet to meet the prize patrol that goes around rewarding those who breastfeed forever, butI do constantly run into blogs, moms and child-rearing books that basically put you somewhere between Mommie Dearest and Casey Anthony in the crappy mom category if you find it’s not for you and don’t just about kill yourself trying to do it! More women should cut themselves a break and be thankful for formula. If breastfeeding works for you -that’s fantastic, but it doesn’t mean you’re a better mom. The impact of having a baby and the hormones are crazy enough without borrowing more problems.

Me

August 10th, 2011
9:36 am

@Jeff == Yep, I’m with you… I got notta…

Quincy

August 10th, 2011
9:43 am

And here is something else do consider. If depression is the cause for breastfeeding issues, and not the other way around – breastfeeding issues cause postpartum depression, which makes “postpartum” a chronological distinction at best – Perhaps the inability to feed/nourish one’s child as Nature requires, is Nature’s way of removing “depression” from the gene pool. I know this observation is theoretical at best; and it will likely cause a stir amongs creationists; but us secular humanists tend to view things differently. And as noted; I am sure it is only a matter of time before Merck or Pfizer or Johnson and Johnson develop a pill to “treat” women for postpartum depression, and/or lactation issues. Just my cynical two cents.

yuki

August 10th, 2011
9:46 am

Well said JATL- could not agree more.

jarvis

August 10th, 2011
9:47 am

My wife had significant guilt issues with having to stop nursing our oldest at 5 weeks. Our daughter had developed a milk allergy and had to be put on hypo-allergenic formula. Even with it clearly not being her fault, my wife felt as though she had failed in an area of motherhood.

The lactation freak at our doctors office put undue pressure on my wife in the first few weeks making my wife feel like if our daughter was formula fed she was going to grow up with the immune system of an AIDS victim. After birth women are struggling with a flood of body chemicals, and the self-made lactation specialist industry just preys on their emotions.

Quincy

August 10th, 2011
9:50 am

And before anyone throws a rock at me, whom do you think provides the grants/funds for the UNC School of Medicine to conduct such research? This is not some half-baked conspiracy theory; it is a sober admission of how the game is played. One could argue that the end justifies the means (ANY research into postpartum depression, breastfeeding issues, etc. serves the greater good). Perhaps, but in my humble opinion capitalism and not altruism is driving this bus.

Denise

August 10th, 2011
10:33 am

Off the topic – MJG The Help is EXCELLENT!

motherjanegoose

August 10th, 2011
10:38 am

@ Denise…oh good! Did you read the book first? I am going, with my sister, next weekend!

motherjanegoose

August 10th, 2011
10:39 am

@ Denise again, are you near Dobbins? maybe you would like to meet me for lunch with Becky sometime? Just let me know! I am out your way several times each year!

JJ

August 10th, 2011
11:12 am

@Denise – I’m reading The Help….so far so good. I needed to take a break from all my crime/mysteries books….this is a great read, fast and fun….

motherjanegoose

August 10th, 2011
11:15 am

@ JJ…do you have the paperback or electronic? During the winter, I lugged the hardback around for a week on the airplanes. TWG mentioned we would discuss it online. Then, it was quite a while before we got back to it and not many even chimed in. I thought it was a riot and cannot wait to see the movie!

Theresa

August 10th, 2011
11:23 am

You know what it seems like a no-duh but when you’re in depression especially with your first child you don’t necessarily know it. I didn’t realize what I was feeling and going through wasn’t normal and I had never really experienced anything like that before. the dr. did a terrible job screening for it and supporting me after the birth of the baby. The only person that cared at all was Julie Duncan at Piedmont Hospital — the lactation consultant — and she figured it all out. she’s like every time I talk to you you’re crying. I think you’re in depression. She also figured the yeast out. Having both of those things figured out and verbalized helped so much. With Walsh it was completely different. Nursed great — hurt like it’s supposed to hurt just while they toughen up the nipples — and then all better. Was happy and content and no crying!! I really didn’t realize how bad I was with Rose — I just knew I felt awful.

Theresa

August 10th, 2011
11:24 am

the help is a very fast fun read – you can def. read fast before seeing the movie – can’t wait to see the movie!! trying to figure out when I can go.

JJ

August 10th, 2011
11:27 am

@MJG – I have it in paperback. I refuse to do the electronic thing. I have enough trouble keeping up with my phone, and I have no desire for a Kindle or whatever. I’m old school, and LOVE to hold a book, and turn the pages.

JJ

August 10th, 2011
11:28 am

@shaggy – what is your favorite pro football team? (replying from yesterday)…

Techmom

August 10th, 2011
11:38 am

@JJ – I hear people say that all the time about going to an e-Reader but I gotta say, I LOVE my Kindle. I really didn’t think I’d like it that much but I do. And all that emphasis about it not feeling like a book is hooey. It’s still something you hold. I love having lots of reading material at my fingertips whenever I want without having to lug around books- and there’s no losing your bookmark! Plus there are tons of free books out there too. All I’m saying is don’t knock it until you try it. There are tons of avid readers out there who have made the change for a reason.

DB

August 10th, 2011
11:44 am

@Quincy: It’s a government-funded study, not one funded by drug companies or formula companies. What is your point?

Breastfeeding with my first was relatively easy, once I got past the soreness. It’s SOOOO much easier to just feed the baby, instead of fiddling with formula, getting it the right temperature, and it’s always there (particularly important when we were caught in a six-hour traffic jam one nightmarish Thanksgiving on the Florida Turnpike with a six-week old — much easier to just nurse him than worry about not having any formula, heating it up, etc.!)

The second one didn’t go as smoothly — when she was a few days old, my mother mistakenly gave her some water to quiet her while I was taking my son to preschool. That was all it took — she fought nursing like a tiger after that, was just a little on the lazy side! After four months of “arguing” with her and feeling like the biggest failure of a mother, my husband (who was the unfortunate recipient of my whining and frustration) finally threw up his hands and said, “WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE HOW SHE GETS FED?!!!”

I can understand the depression, especially with all the emphasis on “breast is best”, etc. etc.

JJ

August 10th, 2011
11:47 am

@techmon – I know, and I hear ya. It’s just I’m very old school. I don’t need all those fancy electronics. Just give me my iPhone with my music on it, and I’m a happy camper. And there’s an app for electronic books on it too, but I’m not going to get it. I don’t want to look at a “screen” any more than I have to…….

I don’t have a fancy big screen tv. I don’t have a big fancy stereo system, heck I don’t even have surround sound. I have a wonderful Bose docking station for my phone, and a wireless transmitter for the car, so I can listen to my music commercial free.

I’m trying to become a “minimalist” and I’m getting rid of stuff around my house. I’m trying to fix the house up to put in the market in about 4.5 years.

Scooby

August 10th, 2011
11:47 am

Kindle v. “real book” – who says it has to be strictly one of the other? I love my Kindle but also love my real book library as well. Some books aren’t available on Kindle. There’s room for both.

motherjanegoose

August 10th, 2011
11:50 am

@ Techmom…we had this discussion on M, at our house. I am inclined to mess anything up electronic up, with our without a cord. I offered some extra patio furniture to our son, for his apt. On Monday, I waited until my husband came home and he showed me how to clean it off with our pressure washer. He has used it recently. It was turned on for me and I used it Then I turned it off, when I went inside to get some bleach and sprayed in on the chairs. I tried to turn it back on and NOTHING. Even my husband did not know what I did. He is an expert in electrical things and can fix most anything!

FYI…I can turn a book page without messing things up. Not sure about the Kindle. Could be a hassle, for me.

homeschooler

August 10th, 2011
12:37 pm

Off topic
@MJG just commented on yesterday’s post. Don’t think I answered anyone’s questions but the whole thing just made me mad.

also…Loved the book “The Help” best book I’ve read in years.

JJ

August 10th, 2011
12:49 pm

@Homeschooler – you go girl!!!!!

shaggy

August 10th, 2011
1:09 pm

JJ,

I am a Falcon fan, and have been since I was a boy. As a bird, I have learned to be patient, take heaping amounts of abuse, and increase my beer consumption in the second half.
We finally have a team and owner. Now, it’s just a matter of time ’till that parade down Peachtree.

Techmom

August 10th, 2011
1:11 pm

I still read some regular books but by and far, the Kindle is much easier. There are some books not available on Kindle but publishers are adding more all the time. And there really isn’t anything to screw up; definitely simpler than controlling your TV or even your iPhone. Yes, I’m a techy but even I’m going to get one for my mom for Christmas (and believe me, I avoid all things complicated with her b/c I’m her personal tech support).

The best part about a Kindle to me versus reading on your phone, computer or other eReaders is that it’s NOT backlit. Meaning it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a computer screen and you can read it outside in the sun. I do think the future of books is the electronic world and as more authors learn to ’self publish’ there will be tons more out there.

BTW, I really enjoyed The Help, read it as part of a book club when it first came out so I had to buy the hard back! I gave it to my mom a couple of weeks ago and now she’s ready to see the movie too.

Hmm, looks like we hijacked the blog today… oops ;)

Becky

August 10th, 2011
1:12 pm

I don’t have any personal experience with breast feeding or postpartum depression, so like Jeff..Nothing..

My Mom had ten children, all of us barely two years apart, plus mixed in here was a set of twins..She breast fed all of us..Oldest is now 65, youngest is 47..Don’t guess she ever had any problems..My oldest sister breast fed her twin boys and daughter..Same thing, no problems..

As for a kindle, JJ, I’m not interested in getting one either..Like you, I have enough problems keeoing up with my phone..Plus, I usually buy my books from yard sales or the thrift store for $1.00 or so each, then I can resell them..I don’t even have an IPhone, or a computer at home, so guess I really am old school..

motherjanegoose

August 10th, 2011
1:17 pm

@homeschooler…THANKS for your insights on the other blog. I have about 5 things that really get my goat and freeloaders are one of them. Technology is another but I have to use it ;p.

Techmom

August 10th, 2011
1:23 pm

@Shaggy, I’ll be on Peachtree with you the day that happens. I don’t even want to think about the countless dollars we have wasted watching the Falcons lose. BUT I have great hopes for this season!!

Becky

August 10th, 2011
1:24 pm

@MJG..Amen on that one..

JJ

August 10th, 2011
1:30 pm

I have three favorite teams. The Falcons, The Broncos, and whoever plays Dallas.

I’ll be at that parade. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later!!!! I was so upset when the cut Jenkins, but I understand why. I’m glad I didn’t get his jersey last year. I would love a Roddy White jersey!!!! On game day, I put on all my Falcons’ jewelry. I bought a beautiful stainless steel Falcons bracelet, says “Falcons” across the top, has their logo on side, and NFL on the other side, and the proceeds when to the victims of the Ft. Hood shooting. I also have one of those plastic bracelets (think LiveStrong), that says “Rise Up”. I also have my Falcons earrings, sweatshirts, teeshirts, etc!!!! Yea, I’m a fan……

Quincy

August 10th, 2011
1:39 pm

DB, Whom do you think funds the campaigns/coffers of the government “lawmakers” who hold decide which studies are funded and which are not? Here is a hint: it rhymes with lobbyists. Ergo, when a Senator or Congressman from NJ (home to Merck, J and J, and a plethora of other Big Pharm players) gets a seat on the committee that funds research into all things medical/pharmaseutical; and his good friend from K Street says (over a $500 dinner, or on some junket); “…hey, you guys in Congress ever wonder about postpartum depresssion? My friends at Merck do, and they’re working on a drug to cure it. We think you should fund some research that hopefully (wink, wink) establishes a link to breastfeeding; because, of course, this is all about healthy children…” Excuse my dramatic flare, but I hope you get the picture. It’s like when the folks who make full body scan X-Ray machines ($10 million per unit) hire a lobbyist to convince a member of the Homeland Security committee to fund a study on the need for X-Ray machines at EVERY U.S. airport. Excuse me if I don’t salute XYZ, Inc.’s patriotism; as I am getting blasted by gamma rays. That’s my point.

Denise

August 10th, 2011
1:52 pm

Yes, I read The Help first and the movie was very, very consistent. I got teary-eyed. I cry for everything. Actually I work a few minutes from Dobbins at Lockheed. I’d love to meet you guys for lunch!

motherjanegoose

August 10th, 2011
2:00 pm

@ Becky, on freeloaders or on technology …or both? Let’s invite Denise to join us when I come out for lunch. I hope you are good with it! I did not ask you first but I thought it might be fun.

@ Denise…I think we are up for southern fried chicken and Becky is selecting the place :).

Becky

August 10th, 2011
3:03 pm

@MJG..Freeloading..As you know, I could write a book on freeloaders using nothing but my family members as a ref..

As for inviting Denise, I have no problem with that..Would love to meet her..Denise, I read The Help about 2-3 months before Theresa mentioned it..I loved it.. I laughed and cried.

motherjanegoose

August 10th, 2011
3:13 pm

@ Becky…o.k…thanks for being my friend. I need one today as I opened my mouth, on the other blog, and I am getting hammered on the comments I made.

Denise, send TWG an e-mail to forward to me and then I will get the date (s) together for you to meet us. I am warning you….lunch is almost 2 hours if we do not discuss THE HELP :) maybe we should go for dinner?

shaggy

August 10th, 2011
3:46 pm

JJ & Techmom,

I’ll be seeing you on Peachtree soon, I hope.
Agree about Dallas. They are the Yankees of football, and Falcon fans have some playoff pain to remember because of the likes of them. Would looooooovvvvvveeeee to shut them out in a NFC Championship game. 56-0 would be sweet. I can dream, can’t I? Of course, I can; I am a Falcons fan.

Kathy

August 10th, 2011
4:07 pm

Saw The Help today……AWESOME, AMAZING, FABULOUS!!! The theatre was packed and we all clapped at the very end. Everyone should see this movie, whether you read the book or not.

Denise

August 10th, 2011
4:21 pm

MJG, dinner might be better if it’s not a day off for me! :-) But either way I am just happy to be invited. I’ll send Teresa an email with my email address and first name. :-)

Denise

August 10th, 2011
6:10 pm

@Kathy – I think we all clapped at the end too. Man, that was a good film. I will see it again. Maybe not at the theater because it will be crowded but I will definitely have that one at my house. I wish they could have gone a little off script and had somebody slap Hilly! LOL

JATL

August 10th, 2011
7:53 pm

@Denise and Kathy -glad to know it’s consistent with the book! I loved the book and it meant a lot to me, and I’m dying to see the movie -but afraid to at the same time in case they ruined it! Evidently they didn’t! I’m going tomorrow night.