A new study entitled “Bottle feeding simulates child loss: Postpartum depression and evolutionary medicine” published in the journal Medical Hypotheses suggests that bottle-feeding (with formula) and hospital practices/procedures that lead to intermittent separation between mothers and infants during the immediate postpartum period simulate (speaking in terms of evolutionary medicine) child loss and therefore increase a mother’s risk for postpartum depression.
The authors write, “For most of human evolution the absence or early cessation of breastfeeding would have been occasioned by the micarriage, loss, or death of a child. We contend, therefore, that at the level of her basic biology a mother’s decision to bottle feed [with formula] unknowingly simulates child loss. Consistent with this analysis, there is growing evidence that bottlefeeding is a significant risk factor for postpartum depression.”
The paper’s authors (who work in the Department of Psychology at the University of Albany/ State University of New York, Albany) recently completed a study of over 50 mothers recruited through local pediatric offices at their 4-6 weeks postpartum visit and evaluated them using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression scale. They found that those who bottle fed their babies scored significantly higher on the scale than those who breastfed, even after they controlled for things such as age, education, income, and the mother’s relationship with her current partner.
The paper also cites four other studies that link bottle feeding [with formula] to an increased risk of postpartum depression and/or breastfeeding’s ability to decrease one’s risk for postpartum depression.
This is a fascinating article to me for a variety of reasons. First off, it is written by psychologists, not health care professionals and hence, takes a look at this very important topic from a completely different perspective.
Second, it is a study/analysis that focuses “not on the advantages of breastfeeding per se, but rather on the negative psychological consequences of the decision not to breastfeed.”
Thirdly, for mothers who cannot breastfeed (as related to the health of the baby or mother for example) or choose not to breastfeed, this article shows us how important it is as health care professionals to assess these mothers thorougly for signs and symptoms of postpartum depression as well as to educate these mothers and their loved ones about their potentially increased risk for postpartum depression so that they can obtain help and/or counseling if their “baby blues” turn into something more serious.
Forth, it is just yet another reason for me to continue to learn as much as I can about breastfeeding so that I can properly educate all my moms about the benefits of breastfeeding and the hazards of formula feeding. I look forward to future reserach on this topic.
After all, babies were BORN to BREASTFEED and if a mother and baby are healthy enough to do so it is important for all mothers to know that babies DESERVE breast milk and DESERVE to be breastfed! I dream of a world where ALL mothers who are willing and able to breastfeed get the support and encouragement and resources they need to do so!