Planning to breastfeed?
After giving birth and dealing with postpartum body changes, you will be exhausted, overwhelmed, and will probably experience some “baby blues.”
It can be hard to distinguish which issues are causing what emotions.
Breastfeeding can contribute to both positive and negative feelings and this can vary from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy.
But, don’t worry, I’ll help you get to the bottom of it!
First, let’s talk about the “baby blues.” This is a normal experience for many women during the postpartum timeline.
You may feel a little down, overwhelmed, sad, extra tired, and lonely. These feelings are brought on not only by your changing hormones but also by your changing circumstances.
Bringing home your baby and adjusting to your new normal is a difficult process with a steep learning curve.
It would be pretty inhuman not to be negatively affected by this in some form or fashion.
Some women who haven’t experience the baby blues with previous pregnancies may experience them with their later pregnancies as they cope with the reality that they are done having children.
The baby blues are mild and will get better over time as you get the hang of things, establish a newborn sleep schedule, allow your hormones to regulate, and get into a new daily routine.
Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
Postpartum depression is a more serious, but still very common condition for new mothers.
These feeling go beyond general “baby blues.”
If you feel extreme sadness, hopelessness, loneliness, anger or rage and your symptoms do not improve or get worse over time, you should seek medical care from your doctor right away to rule out PPD and postpartum anxiety disorders.
You will likely need medication to get you through this transition phase.
These feelings are nothing to be ashamed of and will likely get better with treatment and time.
Breastfeeding and Your Emotions
It’s possible that breastfeeding may contribute to “baby blues” and PPD in some women.
Breastfeeding and Dopamine
When a woman lactates, her dopamine levels decrease in order for prolactin levels (the milk producing hormone) to increase.
According to Lactation specialist, Alia Heise, “For some women, dopamine drops excessively, and the resulting deficit causes a range of symptoms, including anxiety, anger, and self-loathing.”
Studies have shown that low dopamine levels can also cause a decrease in mood and other negative emotional responses.
Breastfeeding Let Down
Let down, or the milk ejection reflex is when your body is triggered to release the milk your body has produced to feed your baby.
For some women, this can be an unpleasant feeling. You may experience:
- A sudden feeling of fullness in your breasts
- A tingling sensation
- And leaking breasts
As you become more familiar with breastfeeding, you’ll learn to anticipate your let down and will be able to perceive when it’s about to happen. This sensation can cause temporary anxiety, stress or a sinking feeling for some women. This is known by as DMER.
There hasn’t been a lot of research done on this condition, but there is lots of anecdotal evidence of its validity as more and more women report experiencing these same symptoms.
So, if you have these kinds of feelings, you’re not alone and just know that it’s not permanent. Reach out to your doctor to decide the best course of action.
Breastfeeding and Oxytocin
For many women, breastfeeding actually produces good emotions.
When you breastfeed and hold your baby skin to skin, your body produces Oxytocin (the love hormone).
Oxytocin can boost your mood and help you bond with your baby. According to Romper, “Oxytocin has been known to reduce sensations of pain, assist with maternal bonding, decreased cortisol levels, and decreased anxiety.”
Breastfeeding also provides routine downtime for you to be present and relax with just you and your little one.
Some women also have good feelings as a response to their “let down” and may feel a rush of adrenaline or feelings of excitement.
Remember This . . .
As with most things regarding pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum, symptoms and experiences will vary from woman to woman and can manifest in varying degrees of severity.
Don’t let any one symptom or side effect overwhelm you or deter you from breastfeeding.
Try it out and see how it goes. It can be a very good thing for you and your baby. Just remember to give yourself permission to stop if you find it’s not right for you.