While everyone says breastfeeding is good for a baby, it is not good for all new mothers. Breastfeeding can lead to anxiety and depression when the mother struggles. Many new mothers struggle with breastfeeding for a variety of reasons. There can be physical complications so some mothers cannot breastfeed. Others choose not to for many reasons.
There are some new mothers who can persist trying to breastfeed but have to give up. Others have ongoing trouble so that it causes untold stress. And these types of experiences can have a negative impact on a new mother’s mental and emotional health. But this does depend on a variety of things such as her expectations surrounding breastfeeding before the birth of her child. Some women accept they cannot breastfeed and move on easily. Other new mothers find it upsetting and this can contribute to post-natal depression and anxiety.
Post-natal depression and breastfeeding
It is not the breastfeeding itself that negatively affects women’s mental health. Women who have a good breastfeeding experience find it is good for their overall health and wellbeing and for their child. It helps them feel empowered and confident, and can reduce the risk of developing diabetes, some types of cancer and heart disease. Breastfeeding can also reduce the impact of stress. So it is little wonder that numerous studies find that the risk of a woman developing post-natal depression is lower when breastfeeding goes well. On the other hand, it can increase the chance of post-natal depression in women who do not breastfeed at all.
When a woman cannot breastfeed as they thought, it can have a negative impact on their mental health. It can provoke feelings of grief and anger, and they may feel devastated and inadequate, which increases stress.
Reasons why women stop breastfeeding
The following are some reasons women stop breastfeeding:
- difficulty breastfeeding
- delay in milk coming in
- experiencing pain while breastfeeding
- feeling pressure to breastfeed or to continue to breastfeed
- the baby does not latch on properly
- not having enough milk
- loneliness and frustration
- feeling overwhelmed
- not enough support from healthcare workers
- taking medications that are not good for the baby
- guilt at how social media portrays breastfeeding does not live up to the reality
- feeling embarrassed about breastfeeding outside of the home.
Babies can feel their mother’s tension and stress, and this may also contribute to breastfeeding problems. So it can often become a viscous cycle.
Post-natal depression is treatable
It is important to recognise the symptoms of post-natal depression so you can get help straight away. The sooner it is diagnosed and you receive the support you need, the sooner you can start to recover.
Symptoms of post-natal depression include:
- feeling guilty and inadequate
- unable to concentrate and becoming forgetful
- overwhelming loss of joy in what once brought you happiness and pleasure
- sleep disturbances not caused by the baby
- inability to cope with everyday matters
- crying for no apparent reason
- appetite changes
- difficulty enjoying your baby
- fear of being with people or being left alone
- low self-esteem and loss of confidence
- obsessive thoughts
- thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Danger signs of not coping
If you or someone you care about shows any of these symptoms after the birth of their baby, it is important for them to get help. Danger signs of someone not coping include:
- behaviour that is out of character or odd
- withdrawing from all social interaction
- severe mood swings
- talk of harming the baby or themselves
- taking risks that are not normal
- being obsessed with morbid thoughts and ideas
- extreme despair
- wild ideas
- saying things like “Everyone would be better off with me gone”.
Stress can get in the way of breastfeeding
Stress can be positive or negative. Positive stress is healthy but negative stress can cause mental health problems and even impede the ability to breastfeed your child.
A certain amount of stress in everyday life is normal. There is no way to avoid it. What one woman finds stressful may not be stressful for someone else. And, if you are not careful, stress can get in the way of successfully breastfeeding your child.
There are a few ways stress can affect breastfeeding. Too much stress can cause let-down reflux and even decrease your ability to produce enough milk. If your stress levels are high every day, it can also cause weaning your child early.
Breastfeeding has many positive advantages and may even lower your stress levels. Your body releases the oxytocin hormone when you breastfeed, which can make you feel relaxed and promote feelings of love and help the bond with your child.
Common causes of stress for new mothers
Understanding some of the common causes of stress new mothers go through can help prepare you for when they arise. Here are few things that cause a breastfeeding mother’s stress levels to rise.
Worrying about your ability to breastfeed
Worrying about your ability to breastfeed can cause high levels of stress. There can be any number of things that cause you to worry such as your diet, breast size and working hours, for example. Talk to your doctor, family or join an online support group to talk through your fears. This will help relieve some of the stress so you feel more confident.
Physical pain can put stress on your body. There can be residue pain after the delivery of your baby. And when you start breastfeeding, there can be other painful problems such as engorged breasts and nipple soreness. If your doctor prescribes medication to relieve the pain, take it but make sure you tell them you are breastfeeding.
Getting pain relief will reduce the stress and help you to relax. Once any physical pain is under control, it should allow you to feel more comfortable when breastfeeding. This will allow your body to focus on making breast milk instead of the pain.
Learning to deal with breastfeeding in public
It can be stressful breastfeeding in public when you feel self-conscious or embarrassed about others seeing your breasts. So when you are out you can worry about your baby being fed late or where to go to get some privacy. Just know these are valid worries and are greater when breastfeeding is new to you, Eventually you will become more comfortable breastfeeding in all types of environments.
It can be stressful and frustrating when you have problems breastfeeding such as sore nipples or having trouble getting your baby to latch on properly. Learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before the birth so you do not feel so stressed when faced with breastfeeding. And if you have trouble with your baby latching on correctly, get help straight away.
Worrying about your breast milk
Women often worry about making enough breast milk. Worrying whether their baby is getting enough or the quality is good enough can be stressful. These fears are often unfounded but are understandable.
Regardless of diet and environment, most women are capable of producing nutritious breast milk. So long as you are feeding your baby often and it is latching on correctly, you will not need to worry about producing enough milk.
Dealing with your body’s changes
During your pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding you need to cope with massive hormone changes and the changes to your body. You can worry about weight gain and changes to your breasts. You may put pressure on yourself to lose all that weight quickly. But remember, these changes happened over the course of nine months to accommodate the baby growing inside of you. Instead of adding stress and pressure on yourself, be patient and give yourself the time you need to recover.
Coping with relationship problems
It can be stressful if your partner does not want you to breastfeed and you do not agree. Discuss this before the birth of your child. Acknowledge your partner’s thoughts and feelings so you can work together when your baby comes home.
A new baby also changes the dynamics of the home and will affect the household routine. It can be stressful trying to help everyone adjust. And a relationship breakdown is a major stressor at any time, let alone for a new mother.
Tips to help cope with stress in a healthy way
It is impossible to avoid stress, but you can learn to cope with it in a healthy way. So it is good to have some coping mechanisms to fall back on so your stress does not negatively affect breastfeeding your child.
While it is difficult for new mothers, try to get enough sleep and eat a healthy diet. When you feel rested and good about yourself, it makes a difference to how you deal with the challenges of every day. When you start to feel stressed:
- Exercise. Exercise is excellent for relieving stress and releases feel good endorphins into your system These reduce stress and help you feel happier.
- Share your feelings. Share your feelings with your partner, a family member or a friend. Talking to someone can help you feel better.
- Walk away. If it is safe, walk away from the situation that is causing you stress. Go out into the garden or another room, or go for a walk.
- Breathe slowly. Take a few slow breathes concentrating on inhaling and exhaling to reduce your stress.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. Avoid drugs and alcohol as they are not going to help. They can also become part of your breast milk and affect your baby.
We are here to help
Post-natal depression can be a serious mental health issue that is difficult to overcome without help. Coping with a new baby can be tough when dealing with post-natal depression. Dealing with this condition is hard especially when you do not know what triggers these feelings. Even when you have support, you may feel people do not really understand or it is not enough. And when you are taking medication, sometimes you may need something more. If you are struggling, consider reaching out. When you are not coping, contact us to find out how we aim to help get your life back on track. But, if you reach crisis point, call us immediately. We are here to help support you through a crisis and may be able to help you to quickly deal with things better.
We can work with you over the phone, via Skype or in our Spas. Book in today for my Emotional Empowerment Program. I have an introductory offer for just $79 so you may start taking back control of your life. We aim to support you to help you cope with the challenges of post-natal depression so it does not ruin your life. Our help may alleviate the effects of mental health issues so you look forward to a future filled with happiness and joy with your child.
Let me help alleviate the effects of mental health issues
My Emotional Empowerment Program has helped many people like you deal with all types of mental health challenges for more than a decade. We may help you move through and deal with post-natal depression. My aim is to help you deal with post-natal depression in weeks not years. Listen to what Ruth has to say about my program after only a few sessions.