Mama, we know breastfeeding your newborn can be so hard. I know when I was nursing my son, I found it stressful to juggle work and his need to feed right on the spot. I also worried constantly about breastfeeding in the middle of the night because I was afraid of falling asleep during a feeding.
Nursing can take such a physical and emotional toll on a new mama, which is why seeking support for breastfeeding struggles is so important to protect moms from postpartum depression. According to a new survey conducted by the U.K.-based Priory Group, most parents believe that breastfeeding woes triggered postpartum depression. In particular, 80% of the more than 1,000 parents surveyed in the U.K. said that unsuccessful or painful breastfeeding is a key factor contributing to symptoms of depression in new moms, which the National Health Service estimates affects one in every 10 mothers. (About one in nine women in the United States experience postpartum depression symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Priory consultant psychiatrist Dr. Kathryn Hollins, a parent and child mental health expert, says, “New mums need to be gently encouraged to explore all reasons as to why breastfeeding might not be working for them — and that an excessive amount of pressure, although well-intentioned, from health professionals and peers may do more harm than good.” The Priory survey findings suggest that practical and emotional breastfeeding support needs to be made a priority for new mothers everywhere. Breastfeeding as a new parent can be so stressful that many mamas stop early way before the recommended year mark or don’t start at all. In fact, according to the CDC, only 81% of moms breastfeed; of that number, only 22% of mothers do so exclusively for the first six months. But those statistics are not surprising. There are so many reasons why a new mom would stop nursing or choose not to breastfeed: It may be painful, their child cannot latch, they may not produce enough milk, they may not have the time, or their baby may nurse too often or not often enough. These are also reasons why so many mamas feel like an instant failure at breastfeeding, and may begin to feel depressed. Speaking to Cosmopolitan UK, Hollins says, "I am convinced that many moms would be breastfeeding their babies happily and for longer if early help from professionals and experienced mothers was available at the exact moments when moms are faced with a screaming, hungry baby who hasn’t quite worked out how to ‘latch on’." Even if you choose not to breastfeed and decide to formula-feed instead, practical and emotional help should still be made available. Feeding as a whole can be difficult for any new parent, and without the proper support system, you end up feeling alone. But you don’t have to be.