Woman is breastfeeding her child.
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Mental and Behavioral Well-Being

Clinical Abstracts
Aug 04, 2022

Mental and Behavioral Well-Being

Breastfeeding and Maternal Mental Health

Clinical Abstracts
Oct 02, 2022

The benefits of breastfeeding for infants have been widely documented, including positive effects on infant immune systems and cognitive development, reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and protection against obesity, diabetes, and some pediatric cancers. Benefits of breastfeeding for women have also been studied, including post-pregnancy weight loss and protection against diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and breast and ovarian cancer.

However, the effects of breastfeeding on maternal health have largely remained unknown. A new systematic review published in the Journal of Women’s Health looked at the effect of breastfeeding on maternal mental health.

Breastfeeding was associated with overall improved maternal mental health outcomes, and the majority of studies concluded that breastfeeding is associated with fewer mental health symptoms. Of the 55 articles included in the final analysis, 36 reported significant relationships between breastfeeding and maternal mental health outcomes, namely symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety. Twenty-nine studies found that breastfeeding is associated with fewer mental health symptoms, and 28 studies found that breastfeeding was associated with a decreased risk of postpartum depression symptoms.

When breastfeeding challenges or a disparity between breastfeeding expectations and actual experience were present, there was an association with increased mental health symptoms, and five studies found that breastfeeding challenges were associated with a higher risk of negative mental health symptoms.

Breastfeeding may have protective effects on perinatal mental health through release of oxytocin, as breastfeeding has been found to result in an immediate release of oxytocin, which was associated with decreased maternal stress (cortisol) levels and anxiety. This suggests that breastfeeding may have immediate short-term effects on maternal mood.

Further research should be conducted to help providers better personalize breastfeeding and mental health counseling.

REFERENCES

Yuen, M., et. al. (2022, June 14). The effects of breastfeeding on maternal mental health: A systematic review. Journal of Women’s Health. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2021.0504

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