Presentation Information

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Does Breastfeeding Protect Maternal Mental Health? The Role of Oxytocin and Stress

Abstract:

Depression research contains many conclusions that appear to contradict each other regarding the role of breastfeeding. For example, breastfeeding lowers the risk of depression, but depression increases the risk that breastfeeding will fail. Moreover, breastfeeding problems increase women's risk of depression. These findings are not as contradictory as they may seem. By understanding the underlying physiological mechanism, we can understand these seemingly paradoxical findings. This presentation will describe the link between the stress and oxytocin systems, and how they relate to both maternal mental health and breastfeeding. When the stress system is upregulated, depression and breastfeeding difficulties follow. Conversely, when oxytocin is upregulated, maternal mental health and breastfeeding rates improve. This talk also includes the role of birth interventions and mother-infant sleep, as well as practical strategies that increase oxytocin.