Breastfeeding and Maternal Mental Health: The Connection and Considerations

Breastfeeding and Maternal Mental Health: The Connection and Considerations

10 May 2024

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This informal CPD article, ‘Breastfeeding and Maternal Mental Health: The Connection and Considerations‘, was provided by Tasmin Schöpp at Geopace Training. Established in 2010, they are leading UK-based providers of phlebotomy and allied healthcare training.

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way for mothers to nourish their infants, providing numerous physical and emotional benefits for both baby and mother. However, the journey of breastfeeding can also significantly impact maternal mental health, influencing emotions, stress levels, and overall well-being. Understanding the complex interplay between breastfeeding and mental health is crucial for supporting mothers during this transformative phase of motherhood.

The Emotional Landscape of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is often portrayed as a joyful and bonding experience between mother and baby. While this can be true, the reality is that breastfeeding can also evoke a range of emotions, from deep satisfaction and connection to frustration, exhaustion, and self-doubt. Many mothers experience a mix of emotions during breastfeeding, influenced by hormonal changes, physical discomfort, and sleep deprivation.

Postpartum Mental Health Challenges

The postpartum period is a vulnerable time for maternal mental health, with some women experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety. The stress and demands of breastfeeding can exacerbate these mental health challenges. Feelings of inadequacy, guilt, or failure related to breastfeeding difficulties can contribute to heightened emotional distress.

Breastfeeding and Hormonal Changes

Breastfeeding triggers the release of hormones like oxytocin, often referred to as the "love hormone," which promotes bonding and relaxation. However, fluctuations in hormones during breastfeeding can also influence mood and emotional stability. Some women may experience mood swings or heightened sensitivity during lactation.

Challenges of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding challenges, such as latching issues, nipple pain, engorgement, or low milk supply, can significantly impact maternal mental health. Persistent breastfeeding difficulties can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety, and self-blame. The pressure to exclusively breastfeed, coupled with societal expectations, can further contribute to maternal stress.

Supporting Maternal Mental Health

Recognising the link between breastfeeding and mental health is essential for providing adequate support to mothers. Healthcare professionals play a critical role in assessing maternal mental health during postpartum visits and offering resources and referrals for support when needed. Lactation consultants can provide guidance and practical strategies to address breastfeeding challenges and alleviate stress.

The Importance of Self-Care

Self-care is vital for maternal mental health during breastfeeding. Encouraging mothers to prioritise rest, nutrition, and emotional well-being can help mitigate the impact of breastfeeding on mental health. Creating a supportive environment where mothers feel empowered to make informed choices about infant feeding is key to promoting positive maternal mental health outcomes.

Open Communication and Peer Support

Encouraging open communication about breastfeeding challenges and maternal mental health can reduce stigma and feelings of isolation. Peer support groups, online forums, and community-based programs offer valuable opportunities for mothers to connect with others facing similar experiences and share strategies for coping with breastfeeding-related stress.

Seeking Professional Help

It's important for mothers experiencing significant emotional distress related to breastfeeding to seek professional help. Counselling, therapy, or medication may be recommended to address postpartum mood disorders or anxiety. Timely intervention and support can make a significant difference in maternal well-being.


Breastfeeding can be a deeply rewarding and emotionally complex experience for mothers. By acknowledging the impact of breastfeeding on maternal mental health and providing comprehensive support and resources, we can empower mothers to navigate their breastfeeding journey with confidence and resilience. Supporting maternal mental health is not only crucial for the well-being of mothers but also contributes to healthier outcomes for families and communities as a whole.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Geopace Training, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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For more information from Geopace Training, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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