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Kourtney on breastfeeding struggles triggering postpartum depression

selfie of a mom with her son against her chest - essay on breastfeeding struggles triggering postpartum depression

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

Being vulnerable and authentic is hard. Being truthful with others about the times you had to dig yourself out of the trenches is hard. Telling your story is an uneasy feeling. But every time I tell mine, I have yet to regret it. It allows me to connect with others on a deeper level.

That connection has caused my compassion toward other moms and moms-to-be to grow. Our stories are powerful. They can help support, empower, and build each other up. Let’s use them to become the type of friend and family you needed after giving birth. 

Related: To my mom friends: Thank you for letting me lean on you through motherhood

My son was born three months ago. His sister is 15 months older than him. We didn’t find out the gender of either pregnancy. We wanted it to be a surprise. After hearing his first cry, just like with his sister, the doctor said, “Shat is it Dad?!” My husband looked at me with tears in his eyes, kissed me, and told me it was a boy. I couldn’t believe it. Jesus blessed our family with a daughter and now a son. Our prayers of a healthy baby were answered.

The first 24 hours were filled with skin-to-skin cuddles and taking in the intoxicating newborn smell. He never left my chest unless I was waddling to the bathroom to change my own diapers, pads and ice packs.

Breastfeeding seemed to be coming easy with him. It was such a struggle with my daughter that him latching and eating was a relief. Postpartum was going as expected. Baby number two meant I was a seasoned vet, right? We rushed our hospital stay and went home after 24 hours. 

Related: Your best latch: 10 things to know to breastfeed without pain

“After the first night at home with their baby—that is when I see most mothers in tears, overwhelmed, looking for help.” Truthful words from my lactation consultant.

Things started to fall apart. Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby, but that doesn’t mean it always comes naturally. My nipples started to scab and the constant pain and anxiety that went with every feed was worse than labor.

I remember thinking, “Please Jesus, not again.” I’ve been through this. How am I struggling so much with my second baby? Shouldn’t I have more control of the outcome? I’ve been sad before, but this was different. This wasn’t just the baby blues. Postpartum depression crept in and breastfeeding difficulty was my main trigger. My husband looked at me and said, “Do I need to worry about you?” Defeated, I told him, “Yes.” 

What PPD looks like for me: 
– Pushing through breastfeeding difficulties (again). 
– Guilt because I’m not living in pure joy like society tells us that we should be. You are sent home with a traumatized body and a tiny human to care for—isn’t a level of anxiety and tears to be expected?
– Embarrassment that things are so hard and that your husband has to see you so low. 
– Telling friends no for weeks when they want to come meet your baby because the thought of getting yourself together puts you even more over the top.
– Somehow holding it together in front of your older baby. 
– Loss of appetite.
– Going for a drive in the middle of the night because PPD lies and tells you that getting away from your baby is probably what’s best for everyone.
– Tears. A lot of them.
– Feeling paralyzed multiple times throughout the day.
– Feeling far away from your husband and craving alone time. But that alone time is hard (next to impossible) to find. 
– Feeling far away from Jesus. 
– And the worst of it, feeling far away from your newborn.

Related: How motherhood myths impacted my struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety

According to a study by Cristina Borra and colleagues, “The lowest rate of postpartum depression were the moms who intended to breastfeed and successfully did so. The highest rate of postpartum depression were the moms who intended to breastfeed but couldn’t or didn’t.” This is alarming and should not be ignored.

This is huge for mothers to be aware of and why preparing for your mental health is just as important as preparing for your labor. During our struggles to breastfeed, the stress was visible and felt by the entire family.

Medical professionals are very good at measuring weight gain and other physical attributes like meeting milestones. There also needs to be a focus on meeting the emotional needs of infants AND their mothers. Adequate weight gain does not always mean a healthy breastfeeding relationship for baby or mom. 

Related: Dear mama, you should not be an afterthought after giving birth

Since the day my son was born, I knew I loved him with my whole heart. I knew I wouldn’t hesitate to take a bullet for him. But I could barely get off the couch when he needed me. I was barely holding on and needed things to get easier. He was five weeks old and I will never forget this day. He looked up at me and smiled the sweetest chubby-faced smile. And I melted. I remember thinking to myself, “This is it.” In that moment, finally, nothing else mattered and we fell so in love with each other. I felt the bond with my child I longed for. And we haven’t looked back since. 

My son is three months old now. Things are getting easier. We fall in love with each other all over again all day long. We are finally breastfeeding successfully after a fixed tongue/lip tie and a lot of help from chiropractors and a lactation consultant.

I am seeing a counselor who is passionate about helping mothers with postpartum depression. I am accepting a lot of help from my village. I am learning to give myself grace. I am learning to find a balance between being a stay at home mom to two under two and being the Kourtney I was before babies. I am learning that going to the grocery store can’t be counted toward a mental health break. I deserve more than that.

Related: Therapy made me a better mom—and wife

Husbands—don’t let your wife forget the woman she is. Constantly remind her of the woman that you love. Friends—be patient. It’s hard to be a good friend when you are battling your own demons. 

To the mother reading this: You have to be OK. Postpartum is messy, exhausting, and makes you second guess everything about yourself. You are not failing. You are selfless and constantly push through so much for your babies.

Be authentic. Skip the small talk and have the deep conversations. That authenticity invites your support system to love on you and love on you hard. Do it for you. I am beating postpartum depression one day at a time because of that love and you deserve the same. The light at the end of the tunnel is closer than you think and you WILL get there.