Bringing Light to Maternal Mental Health

Last week at class, we ended up having a great conversation with topics that ran the gamut. We talked about coffee while breastfeeding (totally fine), alcohol while breastfeeding (also fine, within moderation of course), and eating lots of garlic while breastfeeding (do it! makes your milk sweeter!). We also talked about our mental health after we have a baby, and since May is Mental Health Awareness month, I thought it would be especially beneficial to highlight this topic here on the blog.

This is me WITH Postpartum Depression (2013).

First, since we obviously focus on breastfeeding at The Local Latch, I suppose I should focus on how breastfeeding ties in with maternal mental health.

Here's what we know:  women who do not breastfeed (and those who wean early) are at a greater risk of postpartum depression (PPD). However, (and this is a BIG BUT!), women who have negative experiences with breastfeeding have significantly higher risk of PPD.

So what does this mean? When a new mother is successful in breastfeeding her new baby, she is much less likely to experience PPD. "Successful" being the key word here.

So what does "successful" mean? In this case, we're not talking about how long a mom breastfeeds, or how much milk she produces, or how much weight baby gains, etc. We're talking about how the mom feels about breastfeeding--Does she have a good support system? Is she well educated about breastfeeding? Does she have people around her who will help her reach her breastfeeding goals? Does she have lactation professionals around her who will positively reinforce her strengths and abilities so she will have the confidence to continue in her breastfeeding journey?

This is me WITHOUT Postpartum Depression (2017). That's right!
In this photo, I'm exhausted. In the above photo, I'm smiling.
Don't judge a book by it's cover. 

What about the mom who breastfeeds her baby, but then the hits start coming and they just won't stop? Cracked, bleeding nipples. Bad latch. Screaming baby. Engorged breasts. Mastitis. Sleeplessness. Unpaid maternity leave (or no maternity leave at all). Pain. Judgmental friends or relatives. Unsupportive medical and/or lactation professionals. Frustration. Tears.

This mom wears her struggles like a badge of honor, and smiles politely when everyone praises her for suffering through and, no matter what, continuing to breastfeed. Society applauds this mom for breastfeeding her baby, even though they have no idea of the struggles and torture and lack of support it took for her to do so.

This mom is at a much higher risk for PPD. She may still be breastfeeding, but in this case, this is not "successful" breastfeeding. This is when we--the mom's support system, friends, family, lactation support professionals, medical and birth professionals, etc--have failed a mama. We, the village, have caused this mom to be unsuccessful at breastfeeding, and therefore at a much greater risk for falling prey to PPD.

So what does all this mean for breastfeeding and maternal mental health? It means that we--the community that surrounds a new mother--have a dire responsibility to help and support a new mother to be able to achieve a successful breastfeeding relationship with her baby. We--the village of people who have the best of intentions--have a responsibility to make sure a new mom has all the support she could ever need so that she doesn't have a bad latch, or bleeding nipples, or a screaming baby, or engorged breasts, or the pain and sadness that comes along with it all. We--your friendly neighborhood CLC's at The Local Latch!--see our purpose as supporting a new mama not so she can "just" breastfeed, but so she can breastfeed joyfully and confidently and with loads of support and encouragement and positivity around her.

85% of women experience some mood changes after having a baby, due to hormonal changes or lack of support or a combination of all of the above. These mood changes can present in a myriad of ways, anything from the "Baby Blues" to Postpartum Psychosis. Postpartum mental health is not just a phase to toughen up and push through. It is more often than not a time of need that calls for serious interventions and support to make sure the mom, and in turn the baby, is well taken care of.

At The Local Latch, our business is breastfeeding. And since breastfeeding isn't just about feeding a baby, that means we can also have a significant impact on whether or not a mama will experience difficulties in her mental health after having a baby, too. We believe breast is best for baby and hopefully, through our continued work in helping mamas in our community to have positive, successful breastfeeding experiences, we can prove that breast is best for mama, and her mental health, too.

Don't miss this great weekly support group for new parents in our community! Remember, it takes a village.



--Megan Lombardo, CLC
 

Comments

  1. I definitely experienced PPD with my first son and our very difficult breastfeeding journey. As I am experiencing a positive and "successful" breastfeeding relationship with my 6 month daughter, I can absolutely feel the difference. Tired is different than anxious and depressed. Love to you for speaking so honestly about this ������

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