Mental Health Benefits of Breastfeeding
Add maternal mental health benefits to the well-documented physical advantages that breastfeeding offers to moms and their infants. A systematic review published in the Journal of Women’s Health found that breastfeeding was associated with overall improved maternal mental health outcomes. A majority of the studies concluded that breastfeeding was connected to fewer mental health symptoms. Thirty-six of the 55 articles reported significant relationships between breastfeeding and reduced symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety. Notably, when breastfeeding challenges arose or when the actual experience of breastfeeding didn’t meet expectations, five studies reported negative mental health symptoms.
The researchers suggest that breastfeeding may have protective effects on mental health due to the release of oxytocin—also known as the love hormone—which is associated with decreased maternal stress levels and anxiety. This suggests that breastfeeding may have immediate, short-term effects on maternal mood. Further research is needed to help provide better personalized breastfeeding and mental health counseling to moms.