Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Triumphant Tuesday: Breastfeeding With Depression

80% of mothers go through some anxiety and depression after pregnancy. Some of these mothers (about 10%) become heavily depressed and need to seek professional help; some sources even believe the number is as close as 1 in 3 (Smith 2012). Breastfeeding can alleviate the symptoms of postnatal depression (otherwise known as postpartum depression). Oxytocin = powerful stuff. Yet it is a cruel irony that many doctors pressure mothers with PND to quit breastfeeding. This creates a spiral of deterioration: breastfeeding mother develops PND; doctor pressures mother to quit breastfeeding; protective effect of breastfeeding is lost; mother’s depression deteriorates. The mother in this week's Triumphant Tuesday battled PND through two breastfeeding relationships, and thrived to reap the rewards.

My first child was born at 6pm so we stayed the night in hospital. 

Rocky start

I was quite poorly and lost a lot of blood which gave me anemia. When they sent my husband home I remember wondering how I was meant to look after a baby on my own! I had no experience. No help. No energy. Sure enough she cried all night. She was only happy when she was being breastfed. I was in a bay with 3 other women whose babies were bottle fed and sleeping. Due to my desperation to keep my baby quiet combined with my inexperience, we had a bad latch and I ended up with a split in my nipple

Ten days later we visited a breastfeeding counsellor, who showed us how to latch her on properly, but the damage had been done. To latch her on was more painful than giving birth

To make matters worse, my stitches got infected and burst, resulting in an open wound that didn’t heal for 3 months. My husband and I actually moved in with my parents for 6 weeks because I couldn’t cope. 

The beginnings of depression

My mother was more of a mother to my daughter than I was in that time, as much as I regret it. I couldn't cope with this baby and I wanted my life to go back to the way it was before. I actually asked my mother to adopt her. Thankfully these feelings passed, although the depression continued in a form of self-deprecation.  I felt I wasn't a good enough mother or wife, and these are the feelings I still struggle with today.

Bullying doctor

When my daughter was 7 months old I was diagnosed with PND. The doctor told me I had to reduce breastfeeding to go on to anti-depressants. I refused. Reluctantly, she gave me the medication anyway. 

At each appointment she would ask me if I still was breastfeeding. I continued until she was 10 months old but then gave in to the doctor’s pressure who made me feel guilty for “risking my daughters health.” I regret this immensely.

When my daughter was 15 months old I accidentally fell pregnant again, I was still taking the same antidepressants (fluoxetine) and was referred to a consultant who specialised in maternal depression. The consultant assured me that it was okay to be pregnant and to breastfeed while taking fluoxetine (I was on a high dose of 60mg a day). So why had the other doctor bullied me to stop breastfeeding??

A new baby

When my son was born, he was poorly so sent into SCBU. The nurses took me up to the ward without him and gave me my own room which was at the end of a dark corridor and was freezing. (the window was open and it was january!) They left me there and told me someone would come and get me when I could see my son. (I should mention my husband had taken our daughter home before we knew our son was ill).

They came to get me and took me down to see my son in SCBU, it was heart breaking. After a while, I was sent back to my room. I asked if my son needed feeding, and the nurse said that SCBU would call for me. I waited and stayed awake as long as I could, every time someone came to do my obs I asked if SCBU had called for me and they hadn’t. In the end, I fell asleep. 

Formula by stealth

In the morning I went down to SCBU and it turned out someone had written on my notes that I had given permission for formula to be given to him (Not true!) I didn’t get to feed my baby until he was over 24 hours old. Consequently, he had been used to having his stomach stretched with formula and because my milk hadn’t come in yet, he was unsatisfied with the colustrum. I had to top him up with formula and gradually reduce it until my milk came in properly. 


Furthermore, he was given antibiotics while in SCBU which I believe gave him thrush in his mouth. He then passed that to me and we continued to pass it between each other unknowingly. It was immensely painful! My breasts hurt all the time. Latching on felt like attaching clamps to my nipples and it hurt all through feeding. Then after feeding there was an aching pain from the middle of my breasts. 

I then got another split nipple (the other one this time!) Breastfeeding was still painful when my son was 2 months old. I went back to the breastfeeding counsellor who told me to go to the doctor with a leaflet on thrush. When I did this, I was given a gel for my son’s mouth and a cream and tablet for me. It took three courses of this to clear it completely. 

Calm after the storm

Many months later I am still happily breastfeeding my son at 8 months (still on anti-depressants too). Breastfeeding is worth it - it is easier, more convenient, healthier for you and your baby. It bonds you together better than anything else.

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