For decades, researchers have postulated a connection between breastfeeding and postpartum depression (PPD). Many have suggested that breastfeeding may protect against postpartum depression and have suggested that the cessation of breastfeeding may be a trigger for postpartum depression and/or anxiety. However, the research examining the association between postpartum depression and breastfeeding has been mixed and somewhat difficult to interpret.

A recent study from Canadian researchers has continued to explore the association between breastfeeding-related variables and risk for postpartum depression (as identified using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale). This retrospective study gathered data from the Canadian Maternity Experience Survey of 6421 Canadian mothers.  For this analysis, 2848 women between five and seven months postpartum were included.

In contrast to previous research, breastfeeding attempt, intention, and duration were not associated with risk for postpartum depression at five to seven months postpartum when other risk factors were considered.Factors that were associated with postpartum depression included lower income, higher perceived stress, and lower perceived social support.  

The results of this study indicate that breastfeeding status alone may not be a significant risk factor for postpartum depression.  It is likely that the relationship between postpartum depression and breastfeeding is quite nuanced and complex, and most likely involves the interplay of many factors including partner and family support, the mother’s intentions and expectations, and confidence and competency in breastfeeding.  (Many of these variables are discussed in the review cited below.)

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

Breastfeeding and postpartum depression: Assessing the influence of breastfeeding intention and other risk factors.

Pope CJ, Mazmanian D, Bédard M, Sharma V.

J Affect Disord. 2016 Apr 19;200:45-50.

 

Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression: An Overview and Methodological Recommendations for Future Research.

Pope CJ, Mazmanian D.

Depress Res Treat. 2016.  Epub 2016 Apr 11. Review.  Free Article