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Breastfeeding, Sleep Deprivation, and Postpartum Depression: How To Manage?

There is research that indicates that mothers with PPD who do not get enough sleep are at greater risk for more severe depression. There is also research that demonstrates a link between weaning and depression, although it is unclear whether weaning causes depression or depression causes weaning. To complicate matters even more, there is also research that shows that mothers who are not exclusively breastfeeding have poorer sleep quality. So what do you do if you have PPD, aren't getting enough sleep, and breastfeeding is the only thing that is going right for you?

This week, I am guest posting on Postpartum Progress, the world’s most widely-read blog on postpartum depression, about the link between PPD, sleep and breastfeeding and on ways to get more sleep without compromising your milk supply. Interested? Here are the links to my posts:

Sleep Management, Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression


Tips for Getting More Sleep and Protecting Your Milk Supply During PPD

Did you have PPD and successfully breastfeed your baby? What helped you ensure you were well rested?


Image credit: almitaayon on flickr

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Reader Comments (5)

I successfully breastfed both my children through PPD (it was actually more postpartum anxiety). The first time was much more severe than the second time. Even with support to help me sleep (my husband taking over and giving a bottle, or someone allowing me to take a nap), I experienced insomnia because of the anxiety, which just made the whole cycle worse. The only thing that helped me over the "hump" was medication (zoloft), and speaking with professional therapists individually and in a support group. My worst time seems to be around 3-4 months, and I strongly suspect hormonal changes were a big trigger. So just to say, even when you can get more sleep because others are allowing you time to rest, it may not be possible due to anxiety and insomnia. Despite being exposed to zoloft during breastfeeding, both my girls are very healthy and have met all developmental milestones.

June 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMisty Pratt

I had very bad PPD and postpartum anxiety after the birth of my first son. It lasted nearly an entire year and sleep was a major factor. One of the biggest things that helped me (besides group therapy, which I cannot recommend enough) was natural, calming and easy. This was recommended to me by the postpartum doula who helped me get my son breastfeeding in those first arduous weeks. She said, "Get epsom salts, magnesium suppliment, and invest in rescue remedy. All are available at the health food store. As often as possible, have a warm bath with the epsom salts, and then put some rescue remedy in your water when you take your magnesium. Before turning out the lights, journal everything that is stressing you out. You will be able to sleep better."

This is the best advice I have ever received regarding sleep, breast feeding and exhaustion. I still use these tools when I am getting stressed or anxious. My husband has also started using these tools to help himself sleep when he is working the night shift.

June 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKat Armstrong

I think the stress, fear and isolation can begin even before the birth - that is certainly true in my case. Even though we say society has moved on, people still judge single mothers...but I am dealing with this problem doing some sports, visiting doctors, and have time to myself.

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLucy

Hi Annie - I enjoyed both your articles about PPD and breastfeeding. You bring an experienced and compassionate perspective to the conversation. I, as I say publicly often on my blog, experienced depression and PPD in my lifetime. My PPD was two years in duration. I breastfed throughout and I am so happy that I did so. I had mixed feelings about breastfeeding, I loved it and then was tired of it when my son was older. We weaned easily, as I visited a homeopath in order to handle this transition and our emotions. It is an individualized situation; in my practice I see women who are too anxious to breastfeed and the formula feeding is what works for them. And then, I also have women with prior OCD and anxiety, which got triggered strongly by the childbirth, who are absolutely committed to breastfeeding, are proud of it and love the relationship....thanks so much for your perspective, Kathy

July 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

I had an easy breezy pregnancy with my first child- a girl. I breastfed her for 2 years with only a few bumps in the road (mastitis, bleeding nipples, latch problems, supply fears-- nothing too out of the norm). BUT, I had extreme anxiety and depression while pregnant with my son. I had PPD to the core, and some may have classified it as psychosis. I was suicidal- daily- and just not coping. When he was 1 year old, I found a wonderful therapist and made a ton of progress over the next 10 months. Then, I weaned my son when he was 20 months old I gradually weaned him over the course of 3 months but after my last feeding I cycled down into deep depression again. All the PPD symptoms were back but worse. I am back in therapy, but I know I will get through this. I am posting this so that people are aware that YES, weaning can cause a depression crash. Even if it is gradual-- be aware & alert so that you can reach out for help, or help someone else.

October 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeke

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