Why The Pressure To Breastfeed May Hurt A Mother's Wellbeing

And how it correlates to the mental health of the child too.

mom with baby
Image: Kevin Liang via Unsplash

The pressure to nurture a child in the correct way is placed onto women before they’re even pregnant. Baby books, social norms, and much more effect the route a mother is supposed to take during and after her pregnancy. You could be hounded for wanting to use medicine during your birth, or scolded for trying to take the natural route. The same goes for the immense structure set in place for breastfeeding.
For any mother, the need to breastfeed their child is placed at the upmost importance for them post-pregnancy. The only issue with this is that many children do not latch on. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life, and continue for a full year or more. But in reality, very few women actually do this. In the U.S., according to the CDC, less than half of babies are still breastfed at three months postpartum. By the six month mark, it’s down to 25%.
This pressure is put on mothers through institutes like this, experts in lactation, and other mothers. Women are deemed incompatible because they are not “trying hard enough”.

The Toll On Mental Health

This issue makes the mother feel defeated and has a huge factor in how a mother may experience postpartum depression. She may feel as if it is her fault the child is not latching on. According to HuffPost Australia, Ana Diez-Sampedro and Maria Olenick of FIU saw that the connection between depression and breastfeeding is definitely there. “Women who breastfeed for shorter periods of time tend to have more depression, but whether the depression causes the weaning or the weaning contributes to the depression”.
On top of grappling effect on mothers, there’s research that’s also shown that children whose mothers have postpartum depression are at greater risk for behavioral problems and language delays, for example.

What Should Be Done?

According to HuffPost Australia, Diez-Sampedro and Olenick say a few simple changes in how clinicians care for women. This could go a long way in fixing breastfeeding pressure. “Anyone who works with a new mom should be aware of the link between breastfeeding and postpartum depression. They should be prepared not just to refer women to lactation consultants, but to offer them emotional support. Doctors should talk to women about safe formula feeding practices before they give birth, so they know it’s an option.”
The education of mental health and the relationship it has to a new mother is also very important. To be aware of the issues that may come after birth, an intense and life-changing experience.
When all is said and done, there is no right way to feed a newborn child. Regardless of clash between these opinions, the first thought on anyone’s mind should be that of health. Continuing to help a child grow should be done outside of the womb, in the safest and least harmful way.
While you’re here, check out the three nutrients you need to know about after having a baby and where to find them.
 

 

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