Difficulty With Breastfeeding Can Lead to Postpartum Depression


Breastfeeding Can Be HardAre you having a hard time breastfeeding? Feeling frustrated, awkward, and worried about your flow? I’ve been there, sister-friend. And let me tell you, from personal experience and with science behind me: if you struggle with breastfeeding, you’re more at risk for postpartum depression. So be extra-kind to yourself, ask for help when you need it, accept help when it’s given, and above all, know the signs of PPD so you can attack it if it strikes.

We have this idea of motherhood that’s a lot like our idea of marriage: it’s the happily-ever-after, and everything’s supposed to go well because it’s what we’ve wanted for so long. What reality can live up to such romantic scrutiny? And when we can’t live up to our ideals, sometimes we tell ourselves we’re failures.

But we’re not.

Being a mom isn’t easy. It’s probably harder than anything you’ve ever done: I mean, compare it to training for a triathlon. Do you train so hard, you have to get into a Jacuzzi or get an epidural just to endure the pain? Does your coach wake you every two hours in the night to scream at you and make you clean up poo? Does everyone smile at you and say, “You must be so happy to be doing this triathlon while exhausted, covered in poo, and in possession of a golf-ball-sized hemorrhoid?”

NO! If that happened, we’d freak out! If it happened to a friend, we’d rush over there and at least do her laundry while she took a nap! Yet this is what new moms deal with routinely. Yes, we handle it, we get on with it, and we get through it, mostly because lovely hormones and the snuggly feeling of our beautiful little peach-fuzz monkey makes it totally wonderful even in its day-to-day difficulty.

But that’s the stress we’re already dealing with. Now, add into the mix: cracked nipples, low flow, a baby that is having trouble latching, and maybe a little thrush just for giggles.

And add onto THAT the social pressure – either the feeling that all your friends are having no problem breastfeeding, as their nipples seem to spout like crazy fountains, or that nobody you know is breastfeeding, and they’re all telling you to give up and grab a bottle. In your mind, this is the most basic, instinctive thing that mammals like us do – as I muttered to myself, “a freakin’ meerkat can figure this out, why can’t I?” So when reality smacks you in the face with this awful, frustrating difficulty, you beat yourself up, because it must be your fault.

It’s not. There’s no fault here. Sometimes, breastfeeding is easy (but in those cases, I guarantee you, something else is frustrating and hard!). Sometimes, breastfeeding is hard to get the hang of, and drives you bat-guano crazy. If you can make it work, that is freakin’ amazing and wonderful, and you are a super-mom for working through it. And if you can’t make it work, it is freakin’ amazing and wonderful that you tried so hard, and you are a super-mom regardless. Now move on and try the next thing, because believe me, there’s plenty of hard things you’ll have a chance to conquer.

Here are some symptoms to watch for that might signal PPD. Of course, a lot of them are just normal baby-blues, the reaction to this huge life change and stress! But if they last more than a week, or feel like they are growing more intense, say something.

  • Mood swings
  • Feeling anxious or overwhelmed (for me, there was even panic)
  • Crying spells
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping, even when you can
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby
  • Losing interest in the baby

Many women don’t seek help because they feel paranoid – like they will be seen as an unfit mother, like people will think less of them. Don’t fall into this trap. You have every reason to feel depressed, your hormones are going haywire, and it happens. Use the term “post-partum depression” with your doctor, and you will get help. You are a good mom for getting the help you need!

Uh-oh, baby’s crying. Pep talk over. Be kind to yourself!

Did you have trouble breastfeeding? Do you think it made you more prone to PPD?


Image via MJ/TR (´・ω・)/Flickr

breastfeeding, postpartum recovery


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momof... momof030404

This surprises me NOT at ALL. BFing moms can be psycho crazies that treat new and young moms like the lowest levels of shitty moms when they dont BF. Asa mom of three children who are ALL very smart, RARELY get sick, and only one out of the 3 were BF and her only for 6 weeks I tell ALL new mom's that if they CAN great if not it's all good too!! BFing is not the begin all and end all to being a mom and women who are in love with BFing need to STOP putting all that pressure and hate on new moms!!! It's none of anyone's business but the mother of the child!!

sarap... sarapunkinpie88

Great article.

To the comment above mine, when I read it, it seems a little hostile and defensive.

Not helping.

momof... momof030404

I am defensive about it...and probably hostile. I have gone to the hospital for TWO different friends and seen them in TEARS over the guilt and pushyness of BF crazies! I have seen many many women on HERE so mean and ugly to moms that cant or dont BF. Calling them the WORST of names. So that those poor women that want to but cant are left feeling like their first steps into the world of motherhoopd and they are failures! No wonder so many are ending up with PPD and other forms of depression. Not to mention anxiety AND the loss of those special months because they are spent stressing out over something this SILLY. As long as the baby is being FED the world is FINE.

purpl... purplepolkadots

There’s no fault here. Sometimes, breastfeeding is easy (but in those cases, I guarantee you, something else is frustrating and hard!). Sometimes, breastfeeding is hard to get the hang of, and drives you bat-guano crazy. If you can make it work, that is freakin’ amazing and wonderful, and you are a super-mom for working through it. And if you can’t make it work, it is freakin’ amazing and wonderful that you tried so hard, and you are a super-mom regardless.

Thank you, thank you, a million times thank you.

jpfsmom jpfsmom

Actually Sarahpumpkin I've seen some of your comments on other articles and sometimes you are one of those moms. I'm not perfect, I can get very snarky as a defense but if you read comments like momma mentioned day in and day out, it brings out the bad in a lot of people.

nonmember avatar KD

My kids came before it was okay to talk to other moms the way I see some on here do about BFing, bathing, or any other parenting issues (and the youngest is only 8!) But many of my friends are having children now and I tell them the same thing this article says about not thinking that you are a bad mom just because you don't make the same decisions (or can't) that other moms do. Two of my friends were very stressed about bfing and one never produced a lot of milk despite pumping. She still pumps and supplements, but gets constant nasty looks and comments when feeding the baby a bottle even if it is a bottle of breast milk. I even got a nasty comment made to me when I was in a store feeding him. I think if I was having children now I would be one of the moms described here. I was so worried about doing everything "right" and feeling bad when I didn't (or thought I didn't) that I had depression issues without anyone attacking me over my decisions. I am much more relaxed now, which allows me to both encourage and defend my friends.

nonmember avatar Liz

sarapunkin- If a mother is told she's a failure because she has trouble breastfeeding and has to supplement with formula, she has every right to be defensive and hostile. The fault doesn't lie with her, it lies with the women who speak without knowing all the facts. It's the fault of the women who judge other mothers without knowing their circumstances. It happens all the time on this site, and it is extremely unfortunate and disappointing.

In reality we should all be grateful that a safe and healthy substitution for breast milk is so readily available! There are woman in developing countries all over the world who would love having access to formula when breast feeding isn't enough for their children.

jennyce3 jennyce3

Yes, I had trouble breastfeeding, and yes, it did contribute to my PPD, twice actually.  Going into it the first time, I didn't know what I didn't know- I had a lot of pain, and the LCs told me that my daughter had a bad latch and I should take her off and put her back on.....  a couple of days of that, and she began to refuse to latch at all.  I pumped for her.  The second one, I thought, "now I know better, and I won't make her keep relatching", but it caused so much pain that I almost couldn't even take her in my arms.  It took months to heal, and I switched to formula with her.  I tried so hard I was pumping blood instead of milk, and I STILL felt guilty when I quit, and I felt guilty and depressed for allmost two years.  You can try and try, and learn all you can, and go see everyone you can, and it still might not be enough.  I'm pregnant now, with #3 and final, and I am terrified about what is going to happen this time.  For the record, my kids are now 4 and 3, and they are both perfectly healthy, and eat a variety of foods, despite the rocky start.  I think a good idea would be for mothers to not judge each other, and then maybe we can all take a class on how to stop judging ourselves.  I'm going to put that quote about being a super mom anyway on my bathroom mirror.  

jpfsmom jpfsmom

I think that is a great idea for a class Jennyce

BethA... BethAnnJay

I went through a horrible time with my oldest son! I was very excited to breastfeed. Thankfully, I was able to give him colostrum but after that, he was fussy, losing weight and was not filling his diapers like he should have. The dr figured out that I wasn't producing anything for him. My husband and I decided to formula feed until we could figure out the issue with my milk and thank God we did! Our son was discharged from the NICU after one day of formula and we figured out that I am one of the rare women who cannot produce milk, it never came in. I felt guilty, depressed and like a huge failure, especially when a family member told me I was lazy and I wasn't trying hard enough. I had severe PPD that I wouldn't shower, eat or leave the house. I took care of my son but I was a mess. My husband finally got me some help and I learned to stop blaming myself for something out of my control! I now have 4 healthy kids who were all formula fed and I could care less what other people think about it! I don't usually tell people about my struggle with bf'ing because I have been told many hateful things that are not true. I wish that more people would get off their high horse and realize that just because they think it's great, easy, etc doesn't mean it is the same for everyone else! Understanding someone else's differences is the greatest support you can give, whether you agree with them or not!

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