The link between weaning and depression

By Published On: March 8th, 2012

Many women—estimated by experts to be anywhere from 10 to […]

Depressed woman_0Many women—estimated by experts to be anywhere from 10 to 21 percent of mothers in the U.S.—suffer from postpartum depression. Researchers, health professionals, and the media in recent years have been giving more attention to the depression so many women experience in the first year after giving birth and this greater awareness has revealed a recurring connection between postpartum depression and weaning. A recent article from Huffington Post touches on this connection between lactation and a mother’s mood.
According to the article, experts are well aware breastfeeding releases oxytocin, or the “love hormone”, which directly affects a mother’s disposition. In addition to hormonal changes, it is understandable a woman would experience an emotional sense of loss when weaning. Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the perinatal psychiatry program at the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, is studying the relationship between failed lactation and depression. Brody says 87 percent of women do not breastfeed for six months as recommended. She believes women who are able to stop breastfeeding when ready are happier than those who are forced to wean because of extenuating circumstances such as career demands or difficulties producing milk.
Although studies of oxytocin and breastfeeding are just gaining traction in the medical community, mommy bloggers have wondered about the connection for some time. Joanna Goddard, of the popular lifestyle blog Cup of Jo, wrote about her experiences in The hardest two months of my life (a definite must-read for new moms), saying she wished she “had committed to seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist, since that might have helped [her] feel more supported and comforted.” Another blogger called it the “worst PMS” she’d ever had.
Therein lies the problem that women often don’t know where the line between sadness over weaning and deeper depression lies. Dr. Tiffany Field of the University of Miami School of Medicine, says, “It’s normal to feel sad about that. But if you’re feeling changes in your activities and your sleep and they last for a few weeks, that’s when you probably want to get help.”
You can check out the full Huffington Post article here.