Maria Lactans

Maria Lactans
Maria Lactans (wikimedia commons)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is an especially difficult situation, because a new mom is not getting enough sleep and needing to be "on call" for her baby yet she cannot ignore the depressive feelings and thoughts she is having.  She might feel guilty about needing time to care for herself or feel guilty for her negative feelings and thoughts at such a joyful time of life.  However, postpartum depression is an illness that needs to be treated, so it is important to get help - contact your health care provider.  If you are feeling depressed, please do not feel guilty or embarrassed!  The transition from pregnancy to postpartum involves major hormonal changes.  Remember - a baby grew inside of you, entered the world and now you are nourishing him with your milk.  Adjusting to the first or even the tenth baby takes time.

A mom suffering from postpartum depression needs to be aware of what treatments are compatible with breastfeeding.  The good news is that breastfeeding reduces the likelihood a woman will have postpartum depression.  According to Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, there are a number of home treatments moms can incorporate into their lifestyle as a starting point before pursuing medication.  These home treatments may be all that are needed or they can be used in conjunction with medication prescribed by a healthcare provider.  Home treatments include: breastfeeding, exercise, omega 3 fatty acids, St. John's Wort, and cognitive therapy. Consult your healthcare provider before consuming omega 3 fatty acids and St. John's Wort, as they may not be appropriate taken with certain medications and/or in certain health situations.  Breastfeeding and exercise help reduce maternal stress and help with mood.  The other treatments listed, in addition to anti-depressant medication, decrease depression due to their anti-inflammatory effect.  If you ever a question about using a particular medication while breastfeeding, LactMed and Dr. Hale's InfantRisk Center are great resources.  Also, hormonal and thyroid issues sometimes exhibit as depression, so consider asking your health care provider about tests for these.

In addition to home treatment and possibly medication, a Catholic mother can pray for Saint Dymphna's intercession.  She is the patron saint of those suffering from nervous disorders or mental illness.  Also, some mothers find the rosary soothing, because of its chant-like quality.  Here are two book ideas that might provide comfort and practical help: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach and  Catholic Guide to Depression


  1. I learned during my third pregnancy that low iron can mimic depression. During my pregnancy I was lethargic, found it difficult to get out of bed, and it was like a dark cloud hung over me no matter how much I tried to mentally overcome the feelings. My midwife found out I was low in iron- almost anemic. I started on a high quality liquid iron supplement and I felt like a new person without a day. It's another possibility to consider.