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Breastfeeding helps Lower Postnatal Depression: Cambridge Researchers

Aug 20, 2014 09:28 AM EDT
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Breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of postnatal depression, a new study by the University of Cambridge has found.

The study included 10,000 mothers. The researchers found that women who breastfed had lower risk of developing depression than others.

The  World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women breastfeed their babies for at least six months after delivery. Breastfed babies have faster developing brains.

The research has also shown that breastfeeding benefits mothers as it strengthens bond between mother and child and protects women from certain cancers, and even lowers the risk for obesity and heart disease.

"Breastfeeding has well-established benefits to babies, in terms of their physical health and cognitive development; our study shows that it also benefits the mental health of mothers," said Dr Maria Iacovou, from the University of Cambridge's Department of Sociology and a Bye Fellow at Fitzwilliam College.

Data for the current study came from Avon Longitudinal Survey of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). The team used Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to assess depression symptoms in mothers when babies were 8 weeks old, and 8, 21 and 33 months old. The researchers also assessed depression levels before pregnancy to assess mental state of participants before conception.

The study also considered other factors such as socio-economic conditions and relationship status. The researchers found that breastfeeding was an independently associated with lower post-delivery depression.

Dr Iacovou said that health experts might provide guidance to new mothers about breastfeeding.

"Lots of mothers and babies take to breastfeeding pretty easily. But for many others, it doesn't come naturally at all; for these mothers, having someone with the training, the skills, and perhaps most importantly the time to help them get it right, can make all the difference," she added, according to a news release.

The study is published in the journal Maternal and Child Health Journal.

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