Health: Links between breastfeeding and depression?

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A new study shows that moms who breastfeed have a reduction in rates of postpartum depression. But that study also has a flip side, for moms who want to breastfeed, but can't.

It is a very personal decision for new moms: whether they will breastfeed. But a new study shows that while there are some clear benefits, breastfeeding moms might also need some extra support.

Dr. Jennifer Caplan practices at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center. She says for moms who want to breastfeed, it's essential that they get the right tools, knowledge and support.

That's because, while research shows that moms who breastfeed have a 50 percent reduction in  postpartum depression, that same study also showed another issue.

Caplan explains: “So the moms who wanted to breastfeed before they delivered, if they were not able to, then they actually had an increased rate of postpartum depression," she says. In fact, the risk of depression actually doubled in women who wanted to breastfeed and could not."

The study did not look at what caused that increase, and Dr. Caplan says there are probably a number of factors. But she also says: ”I do think there is a lot of expectation about what this mothering experience is going to be like. And for a mom who has expected she is going to be breastfeeding her baby, when now she can't, she is going to go through a grief process, really, where she is losing that expectation of how she was going to be a mom."

And, that's why Dr. Caplan, who is also a lactation consultant, recommends that moms who want to breastfeed should visit the ilca .org website. (International Lactation Consultant Association.) She says a consultant can help with everything from general information to overcoming anatomical challenges.

"Lactation consultants can help them succeed with those problems many times," she says. "But then lots of time it is just a lack of knowledge.”

And while Dr. Caplan is glad to see a study highlight the benefits of breastfeeding, she is even more encouraged that it gets people talking about it. ”So to me, the point of this is not to pressure more moms to breastfeed. But it is to help the ones who have already decided that is what they want to do. To reach their goal."

Dr. Caplan says moms should not feel pressured either way, but, it is important to have support for any questions they do have.