Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Breastfeeding and postnatal depression - do they go together?

I am often asked about the links between breastfeeding and postnatal depression. From my experience I loved breast feeding and as I spiraled into puerperal psychosis and was forced to be separated from baby Dominic, breast feeding was brought to an abrupt end. I was hospitalized in a 'mainstream' psychiatric unit with no specialist staff or facilities for my son to stay with me.
Even now, 13 years on, I still feel robbed of what was a wonderful experience and resent the fact it was taken away from us. I say 'us' because overnight Dominic was given formula milk in addition to being away from me, and initially staying at his grandparents. Small wonder that his excema flared up and he was agitated. For me, my overladen breasts felt like painful, ton weights on my chest. The only 'sympathy' I got from a nurse when I mentioned it was 'think yourself lucky you haven't got a big pair like mine all the time'!!!!
So I am passionate about breast feeding continuing for those mothers who have poor mental health. I also am aware now of the potential harm of separating mother and baby for bonding reasons and why I am a huge advocate of Mother and Baby units.
When you are apparently losing control on every other aspect of your life being the sole person who can breastfeed your baby can help you hold onto an element of purpose and hope.
Some professionals and their patients can be concerned about taking antidepressants whilst breastfeeding BUT although some drugs may not be suitable, others are.

There is information on this in the NICE Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance

Also have a look at the article in the Breastfeeding Network

Their website is also useful for information.

You may also find useful information at The Lactation Consultants of Great Britain.

One of their consultants has her own website and written a 'joyful celebration of breastfeeding book' - Fit to Bust by Alison Blenkinsop

Elaine Hanzak

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