Bottlefeeding and Post Partum Depression

Let me preface this by saying…

  1. IANAn Expert, but just a woman with breastfeeding experience who has had to defend myself to my M-I-L and other extended family. I still breastfeed my daughter, happily and she is 16 months old.

  2. I have no opinion as to whether women should or should not breastfeed. (Well, I do but it’s not relevant to this question…)It works for me and our family. I know it’s medically better for my daughter and for me, but that is not why I chose to bf her, and continue to do so. Please do not read more into this question than just a request for verfification of something I was told at a La Leche League meeting by a leader, who supposedly knows about these things.

  3. I have not been able to find a link for this, so I can verify this information, so if you can, please lead me to the straightdope.

Here is what I was told:

When a mother gives birth, her hormones adjust and make milk. She begins with colostrum and then her milk comes in,usually within 2-5 days. If this colostrum and milk is not demanded from hungry baby, mothers body HORMONALLY goes into depression, thinking that said baby has died. In other words, the body doesn’t understand why the milk is not being consumed, therefore, the woman’s body HORMONALLY caused depression because the body thinks that the baby has DIED! I found this shocking, and it sounded a bit strange, but figured she knows what she’s on about, but does she…?

Now, I know plenty of women who have had PPD who breastfed and plenty of bottlefeeding moms who did not get PPD, so how can this be true?

Anyone have any factual information about this? I looked on the LLLI url but nothing specifically about this was found. Antecdotally, I know this might be true, or might not, but cannot find evidence and would like to have it to hand in case I get attacked on my next visit to M-I-L!

Thanks for keeping with this topic,

Nahhh…Where’d you hear all that, anyway? Former card-carrying member of the La Leche League here, and breastfeeder of 3 healthy kids.

After the baby is born, your body goes into a hormonal storm whether the milk in your breasts is being used or not. Post-partum depression doesn’t have anything to do with whether you breast-feed or bottle-feed. Women who breast-feed get PPD. Women who bottle-feed get PPD.

[minor hijack]

I would wonder why you are still breast-feeding a 16 month old. Is she getting other food, too? Perhaps that’s the source of your family’s concern? I will tell you my anecdote.

With my first, The Cat Who Walks Alone, I was a fanatical breast-feeder. Nothing but breast milk, and after she was a few months old, a little rice cereal and mashed veggies, but no meat. The “Nature Knows Best!” La Leche League hard-line, you know? “The women of the !Kung tribes breast-feed their children till age 3”. “Breast milk in sufficient quantities provides all the protein a baby needs.” I was gonna nurse The Cat for at least a year.

So, by the time she was 8 months old she was way down in the 25% percentile for weight gain, and neither of her parents are particularly small people. So I was in the Family Practitioner’s waiting room with her, for a well-baby checkup, and I was talking to the woman next to me, an older woman with a resonant Texas twang who was in there for something else, and I was telling her all about The Cat, blah blah blah, and she asked what I was feeding her, and I said proudly, “I’m breastfeeding her, and she gets a little rice cereal and some veggies”, and the woman looked shocked and blurted out, “Oh, honey, I’d have that baby eating meat by now!” And the moment she said it, I had an epiphany and realized that she was absolutely right.

So The Cat got onto what I now see was a more “normal” baby diet, hindsight being 20/20, and with the experience of two more kids, and suddenly started moving up in the percentiles, and the doctor went, “Well, huh, how about that”, and I got a different pediatrician because why on earth didn’t he mention it before? He’d always just said, “Well, don’t worry about the numbers, it’s no big deal”, but he never once asked me what else I was feeding her, besides nursing her.

Not a member of the !Kung tribe here. No, my darling eats a lot of other foods, not just breastmilk. She started on rice cereal at 4.5mos and hqs been at it ever since. Her weight although not high is still in the same percentile it’s always been in. But thanks for the advice. I just wanted to verify this fact before the next onslaught of attack. There is nothing wrong with still nursing a 16mos old if she has a good diet otherwise. The World Health Org recommends bf for at least 2 yrs; btw.


Another big breastfeeding proponent here.

I breastfed my son until he pushed me away, within the first year. He was eating other stuff by then, but at night it was nice to not have to prepare a bottle. I plan to breastfeed the one on the way for as long as he wants, not for as long as somebody else wants!

When people, especially relatives, try and “help” you raise your child, smile and thank them. Then continue to do what works for you!

I never heard of a breastfeeding/prevention of PPD link before.

You may be thinking of prolactin. When your child nurses, it does cause a surge of prolactin, which does cause the mother to feel more relaxed and laid back. Many times I fell asleep while nursing. Although part of that could be attributed to basic new-Mom exhaustion, I think that at least part of it was the powerful relaxation response induced by nursing. I don’t think that anyone claimed it would be strong enough to ward off PPD, however.

A large part of the reason for this is because the water supply in much of the world is questionable, milk quality and access to milk is questionable, etc. It is not necessarly pertainent to American moms.

But BF away. I don’t have an issue with it, (not that you should care even if I did) just when the WHO recommendation gets pulled out of context.

The AAP recommends breastfeeding for “at least the first year, and as long afterwards as mutually desired.” 16 months is wonderful and well within a normal range. Breastfeeding your baby fro two years cuts your risk of breast cancer significantly, and also reduces your daughter’s risk for it.
I’m sure you are well versed on the other benefits. :slight_smile:

Read the AAP’s policy statement on breastfeeding here:

Re: bottlefeeding and PPD - I have heard that too.

An article on bf and PPD - but no info on if bottlefeeding causes more cases:

A site with lots of info on PPD:

A page from an IBCLC (international board-certified lacatation consultant) with a blurb about weaning deepening PPD:

A page that details the background causes of PPD:

That said, as a volunteer breastfeeding counselor, I have learned that PPD is not an uncommon condition and in my experience, it is not tied to breastfeeding or lack thereof, but rather a combination of:

  1. genetic predispostion to depression
  2. birth experience (and pregnancy experiences as well) - the harder the delivery, the more likely PPD is to occur
  3. family/spousal support and help

which is confirmed by several of the sites above. I often work with newly delivered moms and can predict with a pretty high degree of accuracy who will have problems breastfeeding due to lack of family support, and often, the same women have PPD. That doesn’t mean all women with PPD have no family support, just that they seem to have it more often.

I don’t believe there is a strong relationship between not breastfeeding and PPD. With a little medical knowledge, you can come up with all sorts of examples of spurious reasoning which sound plausible but don’t happen in practice.

The logic that is beig used to link the two concepts is probably along the lines of “prolactin is a hormone from the pituitary gland increased during breastfeeding. Dopamine is also an antagonist of prolactin. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and chemicals which increase dopamine are sometimes helpful in treating depression; so, obviously…”

But there is a difference between physiologic and pharmacologic doses of hormones; and there are many causes for depression. The link dopamine and PPD has not to my nowledge been established. And I think it might work the other way, since if this was true depressed people might produce more breast milk. I don’t know that dopamine levels change much after pregnancy, but most women are pretty happy during this period.

Dr_Pap, MD

breastfeeding is so much better than formula it isn’t even comparable. breastfeeding with drugs is better than formula. that’s how bad formula is. i am concerned though about feeding babies a regular diet of antidepressants. we’re talking about a drug that acts on the brain. at the risk of sounding mean, millions of women all over the world make it through post partum and breastfeeding and depression without taking drugs. i would think twice before feeding ad’s to my infant.

why would cow’s milk be better?

Yes, but should you breastfeed a 10 year old zombie?

I breastfed my son until he was 14 months (with cereal, meats, veggies, etc.)–no formula. When my daughter was born, she and I each had issues, and although I breastfed her, I eventually had to supplement with formula because she lost so much weight–and yes, I consulted Le Leche, as well as a peds nurse and our pediatrician. Breast is best, but formula is not poison. It can be a lifesaver.

And plenty of moms have NOT made it through post-partum depression, not to mention mothers who are on anti-depressants for other reasons. I don’t speak from personal experience, which is why I wouldn’teverv make sweeping statements about this.

There are enough anxieties and guilt that come with motherhood without us adding more to the mix.

I can’t see why you can’t breastfeed your child for as long as you want. I went to the WHO website and like you said, it recommends “minimum of two years.” The American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding with no milk substitutes for 12 months.

I think people are way too hung up on breastfeeding. I am a male with no kids, so I probably don’t know what I’m talking about, but if you want to breastfeed your kid do it.

Hey, go on and breastfeed. If it works for you, great!

But please, don’t go on and on about how great it is. Breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone, my mom included, and a few friends of mine. Don’t go laying a guilt trip on them.
Don’t go threatening them with the post-partum depression now.

And please, don’t talk like bottle fed kids will all grow up to be sickly sociopaths who will never find true love because they never bonded with mom or whatever. As a bottle fed baby myself, it’s really insulting.

To be fair, if it’s a zombie baby, you’re probably always going to have to feed it because it’s not really going to get any bigger/more self sufficient.

PPD can cause a lot of misery. Counseling women to eschew drug therapy does, indeed, sound mean.

(Please consider using your shift key; we tend to take posts using upper case & lower case more seriously.)

My sister took her 8 month old son in for his check up, he was a big baby. (He’s now a 6’6" man!) He was so robust the Dr refused to believe he was only getting breast milk, said she must be giving him something else, but she wasn’t. She felt strongly about breast feeding and that was all he got.

Every baby is different, every mother is different, every Dr is different. That’s why there are so many choices. Go with what works for you and resist the urge to condemn those who choose otherwise. It’s not that hard, really.