Breastfeeding And Mental Health: Excellent Tips To Stay Healthy

More than 1 in 10 mothers are likely to experience perinatal mental health!

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We know that up to 20% of women are affected by mental illness either during pregnancy or in the 12 months after giving birth. These can include anxiety and depression, postpartum psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from birth trauma or caring for an ill baby.

Breastfeeding Is a very important role, therefore supporting mothers with anxiety, depression, and any mental illness (paid link) is not an option !

Research for breastfeeding in ensuring optimal infant and maternal health is significant, as stated by the Lancet breastfeeding series 2016 and the World Health Organization and UK Department of Health Guidelines.

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Did you know that more than 1 in 10 mothers are likely to experience perinatal mental health problems?

 Breastfeeding Benefits: so vital for all babies?

  • Breastfeeding has been shown to have a positive effect on the mental wellbeing of both mother and baby when breastfeeding is going well.
  • Breastfeeding is a buffer, protective for a baby whose mother is experiencing perinatal mental health problems.
  • Depression has an inflammatory effect on the body; effective breastfeeding decreases inflammation.
  • Risk factors for depression: stress, pain, fatigue and sleep deprivation, inflammatory response,(paid link) history of

trauma, history of depression or PTSD. When breastfeeding (pd link) is going well it down-regulates these responses. 

Does Breastfeeding hormones help?

Yes they do! Do you know how? Here is the answer:

  • Breastfeeding releases oxytocin which opposes cortisol, lowering the stress response, and reducing blood pressure and anxiety.
  • Prolactin aids return to sleep and mothering instincts.

The awesome impact of breastfeeding on the baby

Here is the dynamic power of oxytocin:

  • An effective oxytocin system has long term positive consequences on self-regulation and health.
  • Oxytocin release is a conditioned response and the consequent effects can be triggered, just by the sight, voice or smell of the mother.
  • Oxytocin aids the development of secure attachment

Beware! Not satisfying the desire of a woman to breastfeed is harmful

Attempting to stop a woman from breastfeeding against her wishes puts her at an increased risk for mental health problems, leading to a low self esteem and depression.

What about breastfeeding and medication?

Every mother should be concerned about what medications are safe for her to take while breastfeeding. Most medications are safe to take whilst breastfeeding.  Appropriate prescribing is essential. Sources of information on medications are : BfN: Drugs in Breastmilk Service, Medsmilk, Lactmed, UK Drugs in Lactation Advisory Service.

Support is crucial for both mother and baby:

Support with breastfeeding goes a long way in preserving mental health
  • Understanding normal newborn behaviour and appropriate expectations.
  • Working through any difficulties allows the mum to gain confidence in her choices and allows her a sense of achievement and enjoyment in feeding her child.

Excellent Tips you can do to keep you in control of your mental health : You can do it mama!

Having good control of your mental illnesses will help you to make good decisions in pregnancy. Work to stabilize your illness as much as possible beforehand. Use the self-care techniques that help you stay mentally well during and after pregnancy.

Continue to take supplements

You can continue taking vitamins during breastfeeding!

Taking prenatal vitamins before pregnancy fills in the gaps in your diet and ensures you have enough folic acid and iron needed. You still should take these for sometime after having baby.

Weight Management

Keeping your weight under control is giving you fit for life!
  • Getting closer to an ideal weight for pregnant will not only make it easier to get pregnant,it will reduce complications.

Healthy Eating

Talk to your doctor about a healthy diet for a healthier baby.  I recommend eating organic whole foods if you can. Your body absorbs vitamins better from foods.  Here are some tips.

  • Dark, leafy greens have folic acid which helps prevent Spina bifidaa serious birth defect of the spinal cord.
  • Eat red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables.
  • Whole grain bread and grains.  A doctor can help you follow a gluten-free or vegan diet.
  • Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and beans are recommended for protein.
  • Dairy, seafood, green vegetables, beans, and dried peas all have calcium in them. Calcium is important to fetal health.
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  • There are many breastfeeding resources to help you on your breastfeeding journey
  • Find qualified health professionals to help you. Your hospital should have resources to help you.
  • Local infant feeding team services, specialist breastfeeding services, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) and recognized breastfeeding counsellors for evidenced based support and information.
  • Ensure you have the right products to help you on you during breastfeeding.(pd link)
  • I encourage you Mama to focus on what is going well with the breastfeeding relationship and build on it. Keeping a positive attitude also helps.


Be determined to stay fit!
  • Exercise will help manage your moods, help you to lose weight before pregnancy, and improve your circulation and blood pressure. High blood pressure and poor circulation can make it difficult for your baby to get nutrients from you.

Report Physical/Sexual/Emotional Abuse

Settling for violence is never the solution!
  • Abuse only makes things worse during or after pregnancy.
  • If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help while planning for a baby or early  in pregnancy. You have to think of your baby as well as yourself.
  • If you have a past history of abuse, seek counseling before pregnancy. Having a baby can sometimes trigger trauma, especially sexual abuse.(pd link)

Medication Benefits vs. Risks

  • You and your doctor will weigh the benefits versus the risks of taking medications during pregnancy, after birth, and during breastfeeding. (Also, I recommend you consult a lactation consultant in taking medications while breastfeeding.) I had to take psych medications with all of my pregnancies due to the severity of my illnesses.
  • Your baby doctor and your psychiatrist will help you make the medication changes to your medications that are safest for you and your baby.
  • Never STOP taking your medications without consulting your doctor. 20-50% of people with bipolar disorder who suddenly stop their medications during pregnancy will relapse within weeks.

Managing Chronic Mental Illness when breastfeeding

  • Having good control of your mental illnesses will help you to make good decisions in pregnancy. Work to stabilize your illness as much as possible beforehand.
  • Use the self-care techniques that help you stay mentally well.  
  • Try these  7 Coping Strategies That I Have Used.
  • Stay in close contact with your doctor.  Watch for signs of relapse.  You are at higher risk during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum for a relapse of symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes Before/During Pregnancy

  • Considering to quit smoking can be one of the best decisions you could ever make. Some benefits are preventing low birth weight, premature birth, and has been tied to ADHD. Talk with your doctor to get help quitting.
  • Illegal drugs are tied to all of the above. Seek help for substance abuse.
  • Alcohol can cause low birth weight, premature birth, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Seek help to stop drinking.

Have fun with some of your favorite things

Being pregnant should not stop you from enjoying your favorite things. Continue to enjoy the things you like to do. Make your life exciting whether or not you are pregnant.

You can trust and depend on God

Yes you certainly can Mama! God cares. I have had many challenges during all of my pregnancies and I relied on God to get me through and He did.

Having the desire to depend on God practically is a God-honoring desire. Your desire is to glorify Him, and that desire itself honors God. Here are some ways ou can do it:

1Prayer: When we give God praise and thanks in prayer, we are demonstrating that we depend on Him. When we confess our sins, we are depending on His grace and forgiveness (Matthew 6:12–131 John 1:9. We also seek wisdom through prayer, thus depending on God to direct our path (James 1:5Proverbs 3:5–6).

2. Read, study, understand, and obey the Bible: The Bible is God’s Word and when we delve into it and respond to its truths, we are telling God we trust Him and take Him at His Word (2 Timothy 3:16–17). We are seeking to know Him and what He says so that we can depend on Him.

3.Act the right way : Jesus says that when we obey Him, we are showing our love for Him (1 John 5:2). We depend on Him by following His instructions.

4. Practice the “more of Him, less of me” principle: We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) and live as Christ. Paul also tells us in Romans to be spiritually minded rather than wanting things of the flesh (Romans 8:5–11).

5. Produce spiritual fruit: There is only one way to do this—stay connected with Jesus (John 15:4). Exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23) is only possible when we are in touch with, and in tune with, the Holy Spirit and depend upon Him to work in and through us.

Develop the fruit s of the spirit is a must

6. Be thankful and filled with gratitude for all of your blessings. (psalms 103)

These are sobering times that we live in today.  Many people have lost jobs and can’t find one.  Others are underemployed and are just barely making it.  The unemployment rate is soaring, the stock market is highly volatile, and famine is spreading worldwide.  Families are losing their homes due to failed mortgages. 

There are severe droughts, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and tornadoes.  And with turmoil going on in the world people are becoming desperate; even the people of God.  What can we do when our backs are against the wall and we have no where to turn and we are in serious trouble? As a pregnant woman, you have nothing to fear if you put your trust in the most high God.

God actually desires that we be utterly dependent upon Him and that we are in desperate need of His help.  Think of a human father.  What good father would not want his children to turn to him when they need help?  Naturally, a father loves it when his children come to him to seek help.  There is something special about having someone there for you.  God is this true source and He is more reliable than any human father or mother. He wants us to cast all of our cares on Him because He cares for us.(1 Peter 5:7).

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There is evidence that breastfeeding can have a preventative effect on mental illness developing. A large scale research study published in 2014 showed that mothers who planned to breastfeed and who actually went on to breastfeed were around 50% less likely to become depressed than mothers who had not planned to, and who did not, breastfeed. Mothers who planned to breastfeed but who did not go on to breastfeed were over twice as likely to become depressed as mothers who had not planned to, and who did not breastfeed.

Research also shows that more than 3 in 5 women stopped breastfeeding earlier than they wanted to. This shows the importance of providing good quality breastfeeding support and evidence based information on the safety of anti-depressant medication for mums who do want to breastfeed.

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Bottom Line:

Mental health is so important for mother and baby. The thing is if mom is fine mentally, so is baby. The benefits of breastfeeding are wonderful for all babies. It is important to discuss with your doctor the type of medication you are on. Most of the medications for mental illness is quite safe for breastfeeding moms. Developing healthy lifestyle habits i also essential. Ask your healthcare provider questions and keep all appointments. Manage your stressors. If you need support do not be afraid to ask. I wish you a happy healthy and safe breastfeeding.

Here is a video about coping with anxiety and depression during pregnancy. Learn as you enjoy!

Many new and expectant mothers are beaming with excitement and joy as they prepare to welcome their new bundle of joy into the world. It is common for some expectant mothers to experience high levels of anxiety and even become depressed before or after childbirth

Here is another one to help you

Jesus came that we may enjoy our lives

Published by Marilyn Smith

Hello. My name is Marilyn Smith. I am a Health Specialist with specialized skills in Clinical Practical Nursing, and Midwife of thirty six years. I am also a certified Lactation and Grief Specialist. I am well qualified to assist in meeting your breastfeeding needs. Breastfeeding is indeed the best for your baby. Congratulations on making such a wonderful decision. Consider this your home as we learn about the joys and pains of pregnancy & breastfeeding

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