Experts are urging to support new mums after research revealed a link between breastfeeding issues and depression.
The study, still in its preliminary stages, wasn’t able to make a conclusion over whether it was the breastfeeding difficulties leading to the depression, or the other way around. However, the research has resulted in experts from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute to encourage more awareness and support for new mums dealing with both issues.
Published in the Journal of the Australian College of Midwives, the study looked at 1500 Australian mums. It found that while 95% initiated breastfeeding after their child was born, around 25% had stopped three months following the birth. By the six month point, around 40% had stopped breastfeeding. In analysing these women, the study concluded that mums who had depressive symptoms when their child was three months old showed massively reduced rates of breastfeeding at the six month point.
“Women’s decisions around infant-feeding are influenced by a range of psycho-social factors and early postnatal depressive symptoms appear to be a significant part of this picture, as either a cause or consequence of decisions to cease breastfeeding,” said Dr Hannah Woolhouse, the study’s lead author.
“We found significantly lower rates of breastfeeding at four, five and six months postpartum in women who had depressive symptoms at three months. It is very difficult to determine whether the depressive symptoms or the breastfeeding difficulties came first,” she said.
“What we can say conclusively, based on our research, is that there is a strong and robust association between maternal depression at three months postpartum and the duration of breastfeeding over the first six months.”
Clearly, there are marked differences in the rates of breastfeeding between women who do and don’t suffer from depressive symptoms starting at the three month mark.
Dr Woolhouse believes that early identification and treatment of these symptoms could help in improving the length that new mums choose to breastfeed. She also called for “appropriate and compassionate support for women experiencing breastfeeding difficulties” which could also help in “reducing maternal depression”.
Research completed and released in the past has indicated that the main reasons women stop breastfeeding prior to the six month point is that they suffer from nipple pain, low milk supply and latching difficulties. Other reasons given include a young maternal age, a single relationship status, less education on the benefits of breastfeeding, socio-economic disadvantage, a smoking habit, and not enough support.