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National Maternal Depression Awareness Month: Overcoming breastfeeding guilt to keep maternal depression at bay

Breastfeeding plays a significant role in creating a bond between the mother and the baby. Study shows that breastfeeding bolsters the maternal love and affection, and that the act also brings about positive changes in the brain of the mother. However, there are women who are unable to breastfeed their newborn child due to several factors, such as less production of breast milk, ill health or medical conditions. This makes them feel incapacitated and incomplete – feelings which are best described as breastfeeding guilt.

It may appear to be normal remorse or regret, but breastfeeding guilt can have serious implications. While the unrelenting guilt can cause obstruction in childbirth recovery, it may also hamper the parenting ability of the mother. More importantly, the condition can trigger mental disorders like anxiety and depression.

Maternal depression is fairly common among new mothers, yet it doesn’t get the kind of attention it deserves. Hence, in order to raise awareness about the different forms of maternal depression and to devise ways to improve the quality of care for all women across the globe experiencing various types of perinatal mental health disorders, every year, the National Maternal Depression Awareness Month is observed in May. During the month, activities are organized across various  platforms and channels to highlight the seriousness of depression after pregnancy and ways to cope with them.

Depression due to breastfeeding guilt

It might be a harsh reality, but not every mother is able to breastfeed her baby. In order to be able to satisfy the thirst and hunger of the child, it is important for the mother to be able to produce sufficient milk to meet the baby’s need, which is not possible always. Many a times, conditions like lower body weight of the mother, excessive stress, hormonal imbalance, deficiency of glandular tissue, past or ongoing substance abuse can hinder the production of milk in the mammary glands.

Unfortunately, irrespective of the reason, the inability to breastfeed always attracts social criticism, discrimination, and condemnation, which triggers breastfeeding guilt in the new mother. The isolation and disconnect further aggravate the breastfeeding guilt, impacting the mental health and ultimately leading to depression. It has also been observed that the risk of developing depression is higher among women who have satisfactorily breastfed their older kids.

Seeking help before it worsens

Undoubtedly, breastfeeding plays a crucial role in ensuring a good health of the mother and the child, but the inability to do so doesn’t make one less of a mother. Therefore, it is important to fight the distress and disappointments caused due to breastfeeding guilt and, instead focus on the healthy development and growth of the newborn. Spending more time with the baby, giving him/her an undivided attention, emitting positive and energetic vibes can help in fostering a strong and lovable bond with the newborn.

A woman can also seek counseling from medical professionals, if she experiences overwhelming feelings due to breastfeeding guilt. An early intervention is always beneficial because timely treatment can help address the concern that can lead to depression. An underlying depression not only harms the mother’s health, but can also hinder the establishment of bond between mother and the child.

If you or your loved one is suffering from depression, connect with Sovereign Health, one of the leading treatment providers for mental disorders across the nation. Call at our 24/7 helpline (855) 969-5557 or chat online with an advisor to more about the tailor-made programs by us at multiple treatment locations in the United States.

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