The Washington Post: Our Assumptions About Breastfeeding Can Hurt Moms’ Mental Health
The Washington Post recently interviewed Cedars-Sinai psychiatrist Olusinmi Bamgbose, MD, about the psychological and emotional minefield some new mothers encounter when they face challenges with breastfeeding.
"I’ve seen that breastfeeding can become this fraught emotional experience where there’s a lot of anxiety leading up to it. And then after, too, to the anxiety of, 'Did he eat enough? Did I do enough? Now, I have to go through the whole thing all over again,'" said Bamgbose, who works with Cedars-Sinai's Reproductive Psychology Program. "It can just become this perpetuating cycle."
The benefits of breastfeeding are well documented. The milk is rich in nutrients and antibodies, and some studies suggest it can benefit a child’s health for years to come. But Bamgbose is concerned the strong messaging that "breast is best" leads to feelings of inadequacy and adds to the stress and anxiety some pregnant women already are feeling. Formula feeding may be the best option for some new mothers.
"The assumption is that you’re going to breastfeed, whereas the question should be: 'Okay, have you thought about breast versus formula? What do you want to do?'" Bamgbose told The Washington Post.
She also pointed out that mothers who work outside the home often don't have the luxury of breastfeeding on the job, or they may find it too taxing and stressful. Bamgbose suggested moving away from a one-sizes-fits-all approach to feeding infants. "It should be normalized that it’s an individual decision that [parents] have to make."
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