Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a serious illness that affects about 18 percent of the population at any given time. In most cases, MDD becomes apparent during middle adulthood. But it can strike any age and people of all different backgrounds and walks of life. For breastfeeding moms with major depression, finding help during the challenging journey can be especially daunting.
If you’re new to breastfeeding or lack support from family or friends, you might feel anxious about expressing your milk and bottle-feeding your baby without anyone else present. This anxiety can make it harder to find support when it comes time to consult with doctors and therapists and easier to put off getting any needed help. Fortunately, there are lots of resources available for mothers who want to find help for their depression while they’re still able to breastfeed their baby.
Talk to Your Doctor About Depression
If you are breastfeeding and feeling depressed, you may be hesitant to talk to your doctor about it. But, by doing so, you may be able to avoid a longer, more painful journey toward the treatment of major depression disorder. When you talk to your doctor about your depression, she may be able to help you figure out what’s contributing to your symptoms—and what might help relieve them. She may be able to recommend a specialist, like a mental health specialist or a reproductive health specialist. She may also be able to suggest some treatment options, like psychotherapy or antidepressants.
Your doctor can also help you better understand what breastfeeding has been like for you so far. If you’ve had a particularly challenging time breastfeeding, you may get some relief by getting a clearer picture of what’s been happening to you.
Find a Peer Support Group
Suppose your doctor determines that you have major depression. In that case, you may be able to find additional support through a peer support group, like a support group for breastfeeding moms with depression. These groups are designed specifically for mothers who are also struggling with depression. The groups may be an especially attractive option for moms who feel anxious about breastfeeding. Sometimes, your doctor may refer you to a peer support group.
Peer support groups are often a good choice for people who live far away from the group’s regular meeting place or who find it hard to regularly commit to attending a group meeting. In addition, peer support groups are a good option for people who don’t feel comfortable talking to a group of people they don’t know well.
Consult with a Medical Therapist
If your doctor determines that you have major depression, you may want to consider seeing a medical therapist. A medical therapist isn’t a psychiatrist or psychologist but someone with a medical degree and training. They can help you work through the longer-term issues that may be contributing to your depression, like finding new ways to cope with stress or figuring out how to communicate with others in your life that your depression has impacted.
In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a medical therapist. Medical therapists are often a good option for people who don’t have insurance or who can’t see a psychiatrist.
Talk to Someone at Your Child’s Daycare or School
If your child’s daycare center or a school employee has been helpful, you may want to ask them to help you find someone to talk to about your depression. For example, your child’s daycare provider might be willing to put you in touch with someone who works with kids who have special needs. Your child’s teacher might be willing to put you in touch with a counselor or social worker. You can also try to talk to someone at your child’s school about your depression. In some communities, there may be a mental health professional or student support group on staff that you can talk to. If not, you may be able to speak to a staff member about finding help for your depression.
Find Breastfeeding and Depression Support Online
If you don’t have a support group, you may also want to look online for help. Online communities like Nest Collaborative breastfeeding support can connect you with people who have depression and breastfeeding experiences similar to yours. You can also use online forums to talk to someone who has been there and can offer advice and support. Keep in mind that these forums are usually open to people who are currently experiencing the same issues you are and may not be a good place to ask for help getting started with therapy or medication. Instead, use these forums to get support and immerse yourself in a community while keeping your needs in mind.
Stay Connected to Other Moms You Trust
If you don’t have a support group in your area, you may consider keeping in touch with the other moms who have been helpful. Some of the support groups you join may have email listserves or Facebook pages where you can stay in touch with other members. You may also find it helpful to keep in touch with the other moms in your child’s daycare and school. If you have friends or family members who can help you find support, they may be able to point you toward resources and people who can help with your depression while you’re still breastfeeding.
Stay Confident While You Wait for Help to Become Available
If you’re waiting to start therapy while still breastfeeding, allow yourself to feel frustrated and impatient while you wait. You might ask yourself, “Why am I waiting? I should be doing something else!” or “Why won’t anyone help me? I’m not a bad person.” Allow yourself to feel frustrated and impatient. Don’t try to push the feelings away or pretend they don’t exist. You might be surprised at how helpful these feelings can be.
You may also find it beneficial to keep track of any signs that you’re starting to get discouraged or get out of touch with your symptoms. Keeping track of this information can help you stay connected to any signs you need to see a doctor or get some medication. Keep in mind that reaching out for help doesn’t have to mean that you’re “doing something wrong.”
Likewise, reaching out for help doesn’t mean you’re “losing the battle.” It simply means you’re willing to ask for support and make changes that might help you feel better again.