Giving birth and breastfeeding are physiologically normal human behaviours. Once baby is born and placed skin to skin on its mother’s chest, it will instinctively start to search for the breast and latch on. Sadly that is not how most births go. Many interventions during labour and birth impact both the mother and the infant. Mothers are often discharged home from hospitals with breastfeeding in the process of still being established. Those who are having difficulties with breastfeeding are more likely to stop breastfeeding and not reach their own goals.

Global recommendations for exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months is supported by most medical associations and governments, yet programs to help mothers reach this recommendation often fall short. Encouraging the promotion of breastfeeding without providing a support system to help mothers when they have problems may be having a negative effect on breastfeeding outcomes.

Mothers want the best for their baby and when breastfeeding is not going well their anxiety levels increase. This along with change of sleeping habits due to having a baby, and baby’s sleep-wake patterns, only enhances the mother’s concerns.

Researchers from the University of Calgary, looked at a possible link between breastfeeding difficulties and postpartum depression. They conducted a prospective study in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to determine whether breastfeeding difficulties affected the risk of postpartum depression. They then also looked at whether the type of breastfeeding support modified the relationship between breastfeeding difficulties and postpartum depression. The study included 442 women and they had a retention rate of 86%. The conclusion by the authors of the study highlighted the importance of quality breastfeeding support and the importance of educating front-line caregivers to ensure a positive breastfeeding experience for the mother.

“Breastfeeding experiences and their associated supports are important factors in postpartum mental health. The development and implementation of novel interventions that adapt the way in which breastfeeding support is delivered can likely reduce the incidence of postpartum depression in Canada” (Chaput et al. 2016).

The study entitled, Breastfeeding difficulties and supports and risk of postpartum depression in a cohort of women who have given birth in Calgary: a prospective cohort study by Kathleen H. Chaput et al., can be found here.