Postnatal blues and how breastfeeding helps

The birth of a baby can trigger a plethora of emotions such as excitement, joy, fear and anxiety along with something completely uncalled for - depression. This depression is often referred to as postnatal depression, postpartum depression or baby blues and happens usually weeks before or within the first year after giving birth. The symptoms include regular mood swings, anxiety, and difficulties in sleeping. These overwhelming emotions and thoughts can be a result of hormonal and physical changes that occur during the transition to motherhood. 


Should new mothers be worried about PND? 

Postnatal depression is said to affect parenting, causing issues with breastfeeding and expressing. However, it’s important to remember that there isn't enough evidence to prove that every new mother would suffer from PND. Even though the problem is common amongst new mothers, only 1 out of every 10 women is prone to suffer from PND(1).


How does breastfeeding help in coping up with PND? 

Lactation Consultant Sioned Hilton, suggests breastfeeding can be a good way for new mothers to cope with postnatal depression. She believes that breastfeeding can minimise PND. Breastfeeding causes the release of oxytocin, also known as the ‘love and happy’ hormone which is important for let-down of breast milk and also uplifts the mood. So, while postnatal depression may reduce breastfeeding frequency, not expressing at all might increase the risk of PND. Additionally, studies suggest breastfeeding lowers chances of depression or assist in faster recovery from the symptoms(2).


How to recover from postnatal depression?

Begin with some self-love: postnatal depression is not your fault so stop blaming yourself. Seek further help and support from your partner, your family members, or consult a Doctor. There are plenty of treatment options available, the best being communicating your problems. 


Few other things you should keep in mind are:


  1. Take it slow, step by step. Rushing into things won’t help, and it would take more than a day to witness improvements. Take each day at a time. 


  1. Be realistic. Breastfeeding won’t be easy, especially when you are suffering from postnatal blues. Establishing nursing would definitely be challenging and you would experience the difference in your breastfeeding journeys. Be realistic, don’t let that affect you. 


  1. Communicate everything with your mother or mother-in-law. Communication is the best way to overcome your worst fears and apprehensions. So, discuss everything that’s bothering you with your midwife so that you are offered the best and expert advice, helping you calm down.


  1. Join a local support group. Postnatal depression is a very common problem and there are local support groups which can be helpful. Find out a local support group where you can meet other local mums suffering from the same problem. You’ll get the extra support and encouragement you would need. Such groups are available in most cities, you can find more about them online or from your doctor. 


  1. Express more often. Expressing, whether to feed the baby directly or to store breast milk using a breast pump leads to the release of oxytocin and which helps elevate your mood. Moreover, expressing frequently would ensure that the demand and supply flow of your breast remain unaffected.  


If you need more help, please seek support from Breastfeeding Support Group or call on the national helplines. Postnatal depression is temporary, it shall pass too.