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Surprising ways breastfeeding can support your mental health

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Surprising ways breastfeeding can support your mental health

Breastfeeding is a big part of many families’ early parenting adventures. It can also have different types of impact on mood at different times, and it can impact one woman very differently from another.

Breastfeeding’s positive impact on mental health

Breastfeeding can have a positive impact on mood. While your baby is nursing, your body releases hormones that make you feel happy and closer to your little one. Prolactin and oxytocin are two of the most significant hormones involved in breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is also one of many great ways to kickstart early parent-child bonding.

Breastfeeding as a stressor

Major stressors of any kind can contribute to postpartum depression, and problems with breastfeeding can cause stress and sadness. It can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to breastfeed, and when it doesn’t go as planned, it can feel like a failure - which is why it’s important to remember that there’s so much more to being a good parent than breastfeeding.

Weaning and mental health

Mood changes associated with weaning are normal, up to a certain point. In addition to the emotional impact weaning can have, weaning causes yet another shift in hormones, with the loss of the regular release of prolactin and oxytocin that comes with breastfeeding.

Weaning goes smoothly for most families, but it's also not uncommon for new moms to feel inexplicably sad or irritable once they begin to wean their babies off breast milk. 

Many women aren't emotionally affected by weaning, but some - especially women who have experienced depression before, or who have a family member who struggled with it - can experience depressive symptoms when they start to wean their baby, or even in the months following weaning. This could be due to the hormone fluctuations associated with weaning, as well as the social and environmental changes.

For new moms who are having trouble with weaning, there are a few things to do to manage moods during this time.

In the meantime, know that for the moms who experience sadness around this time that's related to weaning, most of their symptoms usually go away in a couple of weeks. Sadness that continues longer than this may be a sign of PPD, rather than something related to weaning.


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