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Breastfeeding Promotes Better Mental Health for Both Mom and Baby
  • According to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), about 40 to 80 percent of new moms experience "mild and transient mood disturbance" while for about 13 to 19 percent, symptoms last more than two weeks and thus are diagnosed with postpartum depression. What may be able to help? Breastfeeding.

    Breastfeeding's benefits to a mom's mental health

    At the Smart Parenting Baby Shower held at Makati Diamond Residences, doula Ros Padua of the Pinay Doulas Collectives said breastfeeding can help protect new moms against depression and it extends to the baby as well.

    Hormones of lactation

    Breastfeeding helps release oxytocin, also called the "love hormone" or" "cuddle hormone." It's often associated with hugs, snuggles, social bonding. "When you are breastfeeding, you are more bonded with your child needs. You hold your baby close," Padua explained.

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    Oxytocin has a calming effect on the mom and offers protection against stress. "When you are breastfeeding, your oxytocin level is high. This is the love hormone. Yung hormones and mood swings, [possible na] hindi mati-trigger," Padua explained. 

    One study showed that a decrease in prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production, levels may be accurate predictors of depression.  

    Both love and milk production hormones have been proven to reduce inflammation response in the body, which has also been associated with depression. 

    Breastfeeding equals quality sleep

    Studies have also shown that breastfeeding has also been known to help mom get more quality sleep than moms who switched to formula for their babies. Nursing moms sleep longer, which is essential in combating depression.


    Breastfeeding can mean resilient children

    "When a baby is breastfed, he or she develops a lifelong resiliency," Padua says. Prolonged attachment and frequent contact with mom and the bond it forms causes this as breastfeeding allows for mom to care and attend to her child responsively. 

    The 14-year-long study showed that the effect of breastfeeding for one year was associated with better mental health through age 14. The longer you breastfeed your child, the more it contributes to the better mental health for the child, Padua shared.

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    Breastfeeding does not damage mental health

    A large-scale 2014 study showed that women who had planned on breastfeeding and were successful are 50-percent less likely to become depressed. On the other hand, moms who planned to breastfeed but were not able to do so were twice as likely to become depressed. It also showed that more than three in five women stopped breastfeeding earlier than they wanted to. 

    This shows that the issue is not breastfeeding itself, but the lack of support for the new breastfeeding mother. The first few days of breastfeeding is usually the most trying stage, when moms feel the most pain, need help latching, or want relief from exhaustion. Getting new moms the help and support they need can help up their chances of successful breastfeeding.

    It's so much more important to get everybody on the same page when you decide to breastfeed. But also, moms need to check and prepare themselves, too, because they are the ones who may feel like their life is on hold. This is where information and help are crucial especially while still pregnant and before giving birth. 

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    "There are many reasons to breastfeed. You need to find kung ano pinaka-motivation mo. It must be within you," Padua reminds moms. "Breastfeeding is hard. 'Pag madami ka ng challenges sa pagbe-breastfeed, balikan mo yung motivation mo," she added.

    As the WABA, says, "breastfeeding can make the world a happier and healthier place, one mother and baby at a time" with “warm chain of support” to promote mental health for mom and baby and help ensure a rewarding breastfeeding experience. 

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