How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression

Many women with postpartum depression report struggling to breastfeed, or at least feeling that extra pressure to do so.

It’s hard to know for certain whether breastfeeding problems cause postpartum depression symptoms or if symptoms of postpartum depression are making it difficult to breastfeed.  It could be a combination of both.

Either way, breastfeeding takes some work.  For a mother with postpartum depression, it’s just another aspect of motherhood that can contribute to more stress, added pressure, and self-doubt.

Here are some tips for mothers who are, or who might be, concerned about breastfeeding with postpartum depression.

How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression

*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


Do Your Research

Don’t expect breastfeeding to come naturally to you and baby.  Sometimes it does, but don’t expect it to.  Breastfeeding may have come naturally to our ancestors hundreds of years ago when life was simpler, but if we want to be successful at it now, then we need to do some research.

The best time to do that research is while still pregnant, since the first few days of breastfeeding are the toughest.  If you’ve enrolled in a birthing class, it’s likely they will cover breastfeeding as well.  Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you can think of and take detailed notes.  You never know which aspect of breastfeeding you might struggle with.

Being prepared for any breastfeeding setbacks can help you handle problems better if you end up suffering from postpartum depression.

If you’re already breastfeeding with postpartum depression, it’s never too late to research ways to improve your experience.  There are plenty of resources available to help you.

Recommended Resources:

Milkologyan online breastfeeding class that offers tons of information for all the different stages of breastfeeding.

KellyMomthe ultimate online breastfeeding resource.  You can find articles about basically every single breastfeeding situation and/or question you could possibly have.

The Womanly Art of BreastfeedingThis book from the La Leche League is a breastfeeding bestseller for a reason.  You can read it while pregnant and keep it on hand as a quick resource when and if situations arise.

For more resources, check out this post from The Merry Momma – An Epic List of Breastfeeding Tips and Resources


Learn About D-MER

Also known as Dysphoric Milk Ejection ReflexD-MER is a newer breastfeeding condition that often gets confused as a symptom of postpartum depression.  It is characterized by feelings of anxiety, sadness, panic, dread or loneliness that are brought on during letdown.

It is important to note that D-MER is NOT a symptom of postpartum depression, although it is triggered by a change in hormone levels.  The “dysphoric” state that it causes is purely a physiological response to the sudden drop in dopamine levels required to increase milk-producing prolactin.  In other words – a chemical imbalance.

Women with D-MER can also suffer from postpartum depression, which can add to the confusion and increase aversion to breastfeeding.  Simply recognizing the unpleasant feelings as a physiological response, as opposed to a psychological condition, can make a huge difference.

[Related Reading: A Condition Called D-MER: When Breastfeeding Makes You Feel Sad]

D-MER: When Breastfeeding Makes You Feel Sad
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Start Off Right

There is one epic moment after you have a baby that opens the door for breastfeeding success.  What you do in this moment will set the pace for your breastfeeding journey.  I’m talking about when your milk comes in.

Up until your milk comes in, baby has just been “suckling” and they haven’t really been “feeding” on much other than colustrum (still super important, though).  And then one morning, you wake up with boulders on your chest, pain up to your armpits and a soaked t-shirt and have more milk than you know what to do with.

How, When & Why to Do Breast Compression
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The most important things to focus on when your milk comes in are:

Proper Latching

It will be difficult to latch a baby onto an extremely full breast.  The nipple can flatten or invert, and squeezing the breast to get it into baby’s mouth can be incredibly painful.  Using breast shells was a lifesaver for me during engorgement.

Here’s a helpful infographic about getting the right latch from The Milk Memoirs.

Hind Milk

With extremely full breasts, there is a lot of watery fore milk at the front, and the rich, fattier hind milk at the back of the breast.  You want to make sure that baby is getting enough of the fattier hind milk before they get full.  Otherwise, you can end up with greenish poops and red bums, along with other problems.  The breast compression technique is the best way to ensure baby is getting the good stuff.

[Related Reading: How, When, and Why to Do Breast Compression]

Clogged Milk Ducts

The name says it all and the last thing you want to end up with is a swollen, red clogged milk duct.  If left untreated, it can lead to mastitis.  Thankfully there are lots of easy remedies to help loosen up a blocked duct.

Regulating Milk Supply

It might be tempting to pump out all that extra milk, but the best thing you can do is just feed, feed, feed.  Baby may go through a cluster feeding phase when your milk comes in so just lay in bed and feed baby all day long if you need to.  Feeding on demand will help to regulate your milk supply so that your body will learn to produce exactly the right amount of milk for your baby’s needs.

Nursing Positions

Once you have an adequate supply of milk, you should start experimenting with different nursing positions.  A football hold is great for managing those XL sized engorged breasts.  Lying back can be helpful if you have a forceful letdown.  Side-Lying is always a popular option for night feedings or to get through cluster feeding sessions.

[Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding Positions]

Postpartum Depression Resources
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Reduce Stress While Nursing

Stress is the number one killer of a good milk supply.  Stressing out about whether or not you’re producing enough milk is the last thing you should do.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety and feel like it is impacting your milk supply, try to find ways to calm yourself down during feedings.

For more advice on handling and reducing stress, you can find a variety of articles on Better Help – https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/stress/

Some Suggestions:

Listen to musicput on your favorite playlist.

Aromatherapydiffuse some essential oils. (These are my personal favorites)

Practice Deep Breathingclear your mind completely and take some slow, deep breaths while you feed baby.

Watch TVdistract yourself with a good show or movie.

Read a Book or Magazineor use an e-reader or tablet.

Look at old picturesMake an album filled with pictures of happier times and loved ones. (I love these customizable photo albums from Mixbook)

Get Comfortablefind the most comfortable spot in your home to nurse baby and make sure everything you need are within arms reach.  If you’re out in public, do whatever makes you most comfortable – whether it’s nursing with or without a nursing cover.  

Cry it Outcrying is a way to release stress and built-up tension, not always a sign of despair.

14 Ways to Help a Mother with Postpartum Depression
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Support vs. Pressure

Women with postpartum depression are extra sensitive to criticism, because they already feel like failures themselves.  They often mistake breastfeeding support as pressure to breastfeed.  I have heard many women with postpartum depression say they felt they would let their partner down if they could not breastfeed.

The truth is, your partner likely doesn’t care as much about breastfeeding as you do.  They want what’s best for the baby, and if they’ve done as much research as you have, they also feel the pressure for breastfeeding to succeed.  But they don’t feel the emotional urge like you do.  They don’t understand what a total body experience it is.

What they do care about most, is you.  They don’t want you to be miserable and in pain simply to breastfeeding.  They will never think of you as a failure for not being able to breastfeed.

If they truly support you, then they will stand by you no matter what decision you make.  And if your partner’s opinions about breastfeeding are causing you unwanted stress, it’s important to tell them, because they may not realize how much it’s affecting you.

[Related Reading: 14 Ways to Help a Mother with Postpartum Depression]


Treatment Options While Breastfeeding

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Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.  I wasn’t given the option to take anti-depressants while I was breastfeeding, but I’ve heard that there are several safe options now.  Prescription anti-depressants are not the only option, either.

Therapy is a great option for breastfeeding with postpartum depression.  There are different types of therapy available, including cognitive behavior therapy, support groups or couples therapy.  Online counseling is available through BetterHelp.com.

There are several different herbs, supplements, vitamins, and minerals that have been known to improve symptoms of depression.  If you’re not sure where to begin, I recommend this e-book and treatment plan to learn more about which ones are best for you.

Acupuncture has also been known to help with symptoms of postpartum depression, but make sure to indicate that you are also breastfeeding.

Don’t feel like treatment is out of the question for you if you are breastfeeding with postpartum depression, it’s important to know all your options. 


Giving Up IS An Option

Choosing to stop breastfeeding will NOT make you a bad mother.  Yes, we know that breast is best, and that there are so many benefits to breastfeeding.  But at what cost?

When we weigh out the risks vs. the benefits, your mental health is one hundred times more important than the benefits of breastfeeding. 

There are so many advanced options for formula feeding that your baby will never be at a disadvantage.  In fact, they’ll grow up into junk food addicts just like every other kid.  One day, you will watch your toddler eat dirt in the backyard and wonder why you ever stressed out about breastfeeding.

It’s alright to feel guilty for not breastfeeding, but there are so many other ways to bond with, and provide for, your baby.  You will only be able to do those things if you focus on your mental health so that you can be there for them completely.


My own personal experience of breastfeeding with postpartum depression was actually a pleasant one.  Knowing that my daughter needed me for her survival was what kept me going.  As much as I despised doing it at the time, especially the night time feedings, I realize now that it’s what saved me from detaching from her completely.

Here’s my story…
No matter what your experience is like, or what choices you make for your baby, remember that your mental health and physical well-being are just as important as theirs.

How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression

How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression

How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression

What Breastfeeding Meant to Me

We’ve all heard of the benefits of breastfeeding but we’ve also probably heard a number of horror stories about bleeding nipples and bathroom feedings.  It takes sacrifice, practice and patience but what you get out of it is so worth it.

babyatbreast

*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


When I was pregnant for the first time, I didn’t need any convincing to breastfeed.  I was so curious about experiencing this miracle for myself (and I didn’t want to spend a fortune on formula).  I researched more on breastfeeding than anything else while I was pregnant and I was probably more worried about successfully breastfeeding than I was about labor and delivery. (For some great info on breast changes during pregnancy check out this article from Positive Health Wellness).

This helped!

At first, breastfeeding came easily.  Baby latched on well.  Except that ONE time.  Which led to a cracked nipple.  Which turned into mastitis.  Oh and what are those white patches inside his mouth?  Greaaaat… he’s got thrush.

And then engorgement happened and while I was happy to see the breasts I’ve always dreamed of, I couldn’t put my arms down at my sides because of the milk backed up into my armpits.  Which led to a clogged milk duct.  Which turned into mastitis.. again.

And that was only 1 month in…

But not once did I think – “maybe this isn’t for me.”  Because it wasn’t about me.  It was about my baby. 

And I was going to give him the best damn breast milk a body could make, even if it meant wearing cabbage leaves in my bra.

But, actually, it was about me.

Because for the 9 months that I carried him, the people in my life took good care of me.  I felt like the most important person in the world to them.

They called to see how I was doing, carried bags for me and opened doors for me.

They painted rooms and cooked me food and bought me gifts.

They put their hands on my belly and while I thought I wouldn’t  enjoy that, I really did.  Because it made them so excited to witness this miracle growing inside of me.

And in those final hours before he was born, they comforted me and encouraged me and cried with me.

And then it was over…

They placed him in my arms and in that one instant it all became about him.

My needs faded into the background and his came first.  Everyone crowded around to get a glimpse of his tiny face and fought over who got to hold him next.  This was the way it was now, and would be for a very long time.  For a few seconds I felt jealous.  But then… he cried.  He was hungry…

Suddenly I became the most important person in the world again – to him.  And it didn’t matter whether or not I was important to anyone else as long as I was important to him.

Breastfeeding my second child came easier.

But she cried.  She cried so… damn… much.

She didn’t like when anyone held her except me but she also didn’t like NOT being held.

She refused to take a bottle.

She refused to take a pacifier.

She was constantly gassy and it took an elaborate series of moves just to get her to burp.

The only thing that could soothe her was a nursing session…
postpartum depression
I didn’t speak up then but I’m speaking up now

In the gloomy hours of the night, as I sat lonely in the nursery with my breast shoved into her mouth to keep her quiet while everyone else was asleep, I felt a deep darkness set in.

I cried because it’s so much easier to cry in the dark when no one is watching.  I was so tired.  And I was so mad.  I hated that I was the only one able to soothe her.  It felt like a curse.  It became a regular occurrence during our 3 am feeding sessions.  She would suck and I would cry.  I wanted to sleep.  I hated breastfeeding.  I hated that it was all on me to do this.  I hated feeling like I was on a leash, a servant to my baby’s cries for comfort.

But that was just the postpartum depression talking… (or was it?)

What is D-MER?

My doctor offered to put me on medication – “but you can’t breastfeed while you’re on it,” he said.

WOO-HOO – a way out!

But as much as I hated breastfeeding, the thought of stopping – like really, actually stopping, not just threatening to stop – opened me up to a flood of emotions.  I cried again, but not because I was mad, this time it was out of sadness and regret.  I was sorry for this little girl who just wanted to eat and her mother hated feeding her.  She would be deprived of the benefits of breast milk because of me.  I felt like I had failed her.

So I exhaled after what seemed like an incredibly long breath in.  And then I felt inspired and encouraged to do right by her.

“No, thank you, doctor.  I WANT to breastfeed my baby”


If you have suffered from postpartum depression, past or present,  download this FREE printable PDF workbook to help you tell your story (even if you decide not to share it with anyone else)
Click to download!


It was the breastfeeding that led me into the darkness but also the breastfeeding that saved me.

From a mother who knows what it feels like

My youngest daughter also gave me a fair share of trouble when it came to breastfeeding.
I learned this from her!

At the time of her birth, we lived in a small town in Saskatchewan and the one public health nurse there had been the public health nurse for over 20 years.  She had watched all the town’s babies be born, she helped their mothers feed them, she vaccinated them and gave them flu shots.  She watched the efforts of her hard work grow up into strong and healthy adults.

She was, by far, the BEST nurse I ever had the honour of knowing and she taught me more about breastfeeding than I ever learned from the countless nurses and midwives I had in years before.

So we got through the tough stuff, thanks to her.


And it was only with my third baby did I truly come to ENJOY breastfeeding.

Being an already busy mom of two, I longed for those moments when I could just sit down for a few minutes to feed the baby.

I studied her face, her eye color and the way her hair was growing in.

She never bit or scratched me.

She loved to make eye contact.

She didn’t talk or demand that I pay attention to her.

She just drank and was happy and content.

It was a tiny peaceful moment… our moment… my moment.


 Now that I am done breastfeeding my babies – I miss those moments… the peaceful ones, the painful ones and the dark ones. 

To them it was merely sustenance, but to me it was so much more.


For more information and resources on breastfeeding click here.

How to Sleep Train a Newborn

As a new parent, you are probably bracing yourself for sleepless nights ahead.  Oh, they’re there.  I can’t get you out of that one.  Your baby is not going to sleep through the night on Day 1.  Or Day 7.  Or Day 64.  You may already be thinking about sleep training even if it feels like a long way off.

Having a routine is essential to sleep training at any age but the sooner you can implement it, the easier it will be as children get older.

This sleep training guide will help your newborn baby identify the difference between daytime and night time. 

It will lay the foundation for stricter sleep training at a later age. 

It will put the control back into your hands by helping you predict what your baby needs and recognizing the reason why they are crying.

Sleep Training
Sleep Training Guide Part 1: How to Sleep Train a Newborn Sleep Training Guide Part 1: How to Sleep Train a Newborn

* This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

** Furthermore, I am not a sleep training expert, just a mother who’s been there and lived to tell the tale.


SLEEP TRAINING IN THE MORNING

Open the curtains  

Let as much sunlight into your home as possible or sit by a sunny window.  The point is to associate “daytime ” with brightness and noise.

Skin to skin contact  

Strip baby down to a diaper and lay them on your bare chest or cuddle next to them in bed.

Another great option for skin to skin contact is to carry them around in a wrap-style carrier while shirtless. My personal favorite for this is the Boba Wrap for it’s strong, soft material and generous coverage.  Other options include the Moby Wrap, Baby K’tan and Daisy Gro to name a few.

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Give baby a really good feeding

If you’re breastfeeding, now is the time to work on perfecting that latch.  Try out different breastfeeding positions, make lots of eye contact, stroke your baby’s skin and talk to them.  Keep them undressed and try not to let them fall asleep during the feed.  Check out my post on breast compression for more tips!

How, When & Why to do Breast Compression

Get a good burp

Different methods work for different kids but this is so, SO important.  Try gentle bouncing or laying them on their tummy across your arm or leg instead of patting their back.  The number one reason why newborn babies cry after a feeding is because of gas. Often, babies will put their hands to their mouths or seem to root around when they need to burp which can be confusing if baby just finished nursing.

Get a good poop 

This will usually happen on it’s own, so it’s really just a waiting game.  You can try “pumping” their legs or holding them in a “sitting position” to get things moving.

Encourage playtime 

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Talk or sing to baby, have tummy time and lots of skin to skin contact – you want the environment to be stimulating and playful but not over stimulating, so watch for cues that baby is done with a certain activity.  (This proves more difficult than it sounds because many newborns and young babies spend more time sleeping than anything else!)

When looking for a tummy time mat – try to find one that has a detachable pillow to help prop baby up a bit.  Many babies dislike being flat on their tummies, especially when they’re not strong enough to lift themselves up yet.  The pillow is a great option for newborns.  I like this Skip Hop Owl one and this one from Infantino.

Watch for signs of sleepiness

Eyelids will droop, they may stare off in one direction or may start to get fussy.

Put them to sleep in their crib(or wherever you want them to normally sleep)

Graco Maddox Crib – Amazon.ca

It may be tempting to hold and rock that baby for the next 2 hours but the sooner you can get them accustomed to sleeping in their own bed, the better (don’t worry, you can get in lots of cuddles during “playtime”).

If they cry when you put them down, you can try feeding or burping them again but you don’t want baby to fall asleep too heavily, the idea is to put baby down when they are sleepy but not actually asleep.  This habit is important for sleep training at a later age so it’s a good idea to do this as often as possible with your newborn because they don’t usually object to it at this age. 

Sleep Training Guide
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SLEEP TRAINING DURING NAPTIME

Keep the curtains open

Daytime sleep needs to be different from night time sleep, so keep the room bright.

Make noise

Play music in the background or open a window to let in street noise.  If you have older children, don’t shush them while baby naps.  Basically, go about your regular every day activities.  This will teach baby to nap despite life happening around them.

Wake baby up after 2 hours

and start over again.  It might sound cruel to wake up a sleeping baby but wouldn’t you rather save that sleepiness for 3 am?


The goal throughout the day is to pump baby full of food and offer stimulation and attention.


SLEEP TRAINING AT BEDTIME

Make sure that baby has been up for at least 1 – 2 hours before bedtime

Even a 10 minute nap in the car can sustain a baby with enough energy to last all night. It will take some work to plan out baby’s nap times but it is much easier to put a sleep baby to bed than it is to wrestle with an energetic one.

Dim the lights

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The wakeful period before bedtime should be focused on quiet and calm – different than the wakeful periods during the day.  Close the curtains or install blackout blinds.

I love the Gro Anywhere portable blackout blinds because they attach to windows with suction cups, which makes it super easy to sleep train no matter where you are

You still want to make sure baby gets a really good feed, burp and poop.

*Ahem* this is your life now…

Tone down the playtime

JohnsonsBaby.com

You can bathe and/or massage baby, but talk in soft voices and don’t offer too much stimulation or vigorous play.

The Johnson’s Baby website has some excellent tutorials and tips on baby massage.

Try NOT to feed baby right before bed

Aim for a 1/2 hour before bedtime so that they don’t fall asleep while nursing.

Initiate the “BEDTIME ROUTINE”

A bedtime classic – indigo.ca

You will be performing this routine nearly every night for a long time, so decide now what it will include – a bedtime story or a lullaby?  Nightlight? Sound machine?  Saying goodnight to everything in their bedroom?

Over the years the bedtime routine will evolve as your child grows.  But it should always include a calming activity and something that is reserved specifically for bedtime so as to give your baby the bedtime signal.

Put baby to bed when you see the early signs of sleepiness

It’s worth repeating here – put baby down when they are sleepy but not actually asleep. The younger the baby, the more they are acting on instincts and as long as all of their needs are met, they shouldn’t protest when you put them down.

If baby cries when you put them down… 

Try feeding or burping again until they get drowsy.  If baby falls asleep while nursing, just try to get them into bed as soon as possible afterwards.  Try your best to remain positive about the process, or baby will sense your anxiety.

6 Ways to Make Sleep Training a Positive Experience
Here are some tips for staying positive

Once baby is down for the night – DO NOT WAKE BABY UP TO EAT. 

They will wake up on their own (because food > sleep).  But hopefully they will sleep for longer than 2 hour intervals at night.

For added peace of mind, you may want to invest in a good baby monitor. Reviews.com has a comprehensive breakdown of the different baby monitors on the market and lists their top three here.

SLEEP TRAINING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT 

If and when baby wakes up in the middle of the night…

Do not turn on any lights

Keep the room as dark and quiet as possible.  A nightlight offers just enough lighting for you to see what you’re doing but the idea is to help baby associate night time with darkness and quiet.

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These candle-inspired nightlights offer the perfect amount of soft lighting for a baby’s nursery.  I love that they’re rechargeable which means you don’t need access to an exposed socket in the nursery OR have to spend a fortune on batteries.  The coolest feature – you blow them to turn them on or off just like a real candle!

Keep baby dressed

Save the skin to skin contact for the daytime.

Feed baby

Because you’re pumping them full of milk during the day, you don’t need to worry about how much they’re getting in the middle of the night.  This is a great time to use the breast compression technique while breastfeeding.  Most likely, baby will fall asleep during nursing.

Do not talk to or stimulate baby in any way

If you’re smooth enough – you might be able to convince baby that this is just a dream and that they aren’t really awake at all…

Only change a diaper if it’s poopy

Amazon.ca

If baby had enough poopy diapers during the day then the chances of a poopy diaper at night are slim (though they do happen).  If you absolutely must change a diaper, use a warm wipe or washcloth and try to make it as quick as possible.

Get a good burp

but don’t try any fancy positions that might overstimulate baby unless they seem to be having a lot of trouble with gas.

Immediately return baby to crib

Don’t make a big deal out of night time wake ups, and if possible, try not to move baby out of their room.

Continue this routine for all night time feedings until morning and then begin the daytime routine all over again.

[Johnson’s Bedtime Baby Sleep App is a great tool for tracking your baby’s sleep patterns – Download it for FREE!]


Sleep Training Guide Part 2: The Trick to Sleep Training
Part 2

see part two of the running in triangles sleep training guide For more TIPS


Have you tried all these tips and your baby is STILL not sleeping through the night?

There could be something you’re missing.  All babies are different, and there isn’t ONE plan that works for everyone.  Don’t be afraid to seek help from an expert.  Read my review of The Baby Sleep Site for more information.

The Baby Sleep Site Review
Read my review of The Baby Sleep Site

For additional sleep training tips, check out this blog post by Taylor Jones from Dromma.

Tips to Get Your Kids to Sleep
drommabed.com
How to Sleep Train