Presentation Information

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Interplay of Oxytocin and Stress Systems: Impact on Breastfeeding and Mental Health

  • Speaker: Kathleen Kendall-Tackett , PhD, IBCLC, FAPA
  • Presentation Type:
  • Duration: 60 Mins
  • Credits: 1 CERP, 1 Nursing CEU, 1 CME, 0.1 Midwifery CEU, 1 Dietetic CEU

Breastfeeding and mental health are inexplicably linked. The physical act of breastfeeding downregulates the stress system, which protects mental health. But depression, anxiety, and PTSD are direct threats to breastfeeding, making initiation less likely and duration far shorter. Drawing on research from physiology, psychology, and psychoneuroimmunology, this presentation describes the oxytocin vs stress systems and how these systems mutually suppress each other. When oxytocin is upregulated, the stress system is suppressed, which protects mental health. Conversely, breastfeeding problems upregulate the stress system, which increases the likelihood of depression and other conditions. This session also addresses the complex topic of social support. Recent studies show that certain types of “support” completely undermine breastfeeding. This session describes effective support from partners, grandmothers, community groups, and healthcare providers and highlights the links between breastfeeding and mental health.