Presented by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC, FAPA
Depressed mothers are less likely to breastfeed and yet breastfeeding protects against depression. Breastfeeding supports the oxytocin system which over-rides the stress response. Conversely, stress suppresses the oxytocin system, making depression and breastfeeding difficulties more likely. This module describes oxytocin vs. stress and then applies this knowledge to recent studies to understand whether breastfeeding actually protects maternal mental health.
The learner will be able to:
Breastfeeding and depression have a complicated relationship. On one hand, mothers who are depressed are less likely to initiate or continue breastfeeding. On the other hand, exclusively breastfeeding mothers are less likely to be depressed. To understand this apparent contradiction, it’s important to understand the underlying physiology of the stress vs. oxytocin response. Oxytocin suppresses the stress response, providing protection for the mother. Conversely, stress suppresses oxytocin, which makes both depression and breastfeeding difficulties more likely. Birth interventions also have a role in activating this system. This session describes oxytocin vs. stress and then applies this knowledge to recent studies to understand whether breastfeeding actually protects maternal mental health.
The content in this module is re-evaluated every three years in accordance with ANCC criteria. This content will be re-evaluated and updated on or before October 31, 2023.