Pressure To Breast-Feed? Not Helpful For New Moms, Particularly Those With PPD

While no one debates the health benefits to babies who are breast-fed, at times, the medical community, along with well-meaning family and friends, go overboard. They ignore the mental and physical state of the new mom in favor of rigid, one-size-fits-all recommendations.

A new study presented at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association confirms a finding that often comes up in my therapy practice. New moms seek help for their postpartum depression, and in our sessions, I learn that on top of the expected exhaustion and sleep deprivation, they blame themselves because they assume if they’re not breastfeeding, they’re not living up to societal expectations and the best practices that any mother should willingly take on.

“If my doctor insists I should breast feed,” they say, “and I’m unable to do it successfully, that must make me a failure as a mom, right?” This is a typical case of a woman already battling symptoms of PPD, and now she’s piled on internalized guilt and low self-esteem.

It’s likely that a few of my patients are surprised when I suggest they turn a deaf ear to societal pressure and to those who presume to tell the mom what’s best for her. Breastfeeding can be wonderful for many new moms, but for those that find it too wearying, limiting, and stressful, they must learn how to resist recommendations that are ill suited for their emotional state.

After all, if you are breastfeeding, which means you are totally responsible for nourishing your newborn, this restricts the help you can get from others. This ’round-the-clock role also results in less — or possibly zero — breaks away from the baby. Every new mom needs alone time, to rest and for self-care. And, it limits the help you can get from your partner with nighttime feedings.

Now, take this scenario with a new mom who is already experiencing the symptoms of PPD, add in the sleep deprivation and uninvolved partners that even non-symptomatic women experience. It’s easy to see how a woman suffering from the disorder can feel pushed over the edge.

According to Carrie Wendel-Hummel who conducted the published study, “While the public health push for breast-feeding is certainly good overall…the messaging toward and treatment of new moms who are struggling with-breast-feeding might be counterproductive and harmful, particularly to moms also dealing with perinatal mental health disorders.”

“Counterproductive and harmful” are important results to keep in mind, and must be weighed against perceived benefits to the baby. After all the best benefit for your baby, is a healthy emotionally available mom.

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~ by ppdsus on September 12, 2014.

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