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Antidepressants can Increase Breastfeeding Rates in Depressed Mothers

Update Date: Apr 10, 2014 11:26 AM EDT

Breastfeeding is recommended over formula milk because studies have found that the former is more healthy and beneficial for a newborn baby's physical and cognitive growth. Despite an abundance of evidence supporting breast milk, some mothers do not breastfeed due to uncontrollable factors. In a new study, researchers examined the incidence of breastfeeding in depressed mothers, who might not have the motivation to breastfeed. The team found that mothers with depression are more likely to breastfeed if they continue taking their medications as opposed to skipping them out of concern for their baby's health.

The researchers from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute analyzed data taken from the Danish National Birth Cohort from Denmark. They had information on 368 women who were taking antidepressants before they became pregnant. During pregnancy or after giving birth, the researchers found that around 67 percent of the women stopped taking their medications out of concern for their baby's health. The remaining 33 percent continued with their medications, which were considered to be safe for the baby.

The researchers found that the group of mothers who took their medications had more success with breastfeeding. They were more likely to breastfeed past the recommended six months of feeding. The women in the other group, however, were more likely to stop breastfeeding within the first six months.

"This is a really important message because we know that breastfeeding has immense benefits for the child and the mum herself, including a degree of protection against post-natal depression," NHMRC Early Career Fellow Dr. Luke Grzeskowiak from the Robinson Research Institute said according to Medical Xpress. "The amount of antidepressant medication that finds its way into a mother's breast milk is very low. On the balance of it, we believe that continuing to take antidepressant medication and maintaining regular breastfeeding will be the best outcome for both the baby and the mother."

The researchers added that women with depression should discuss the pros and cons of taking the medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Since depression can be extremely difficult, family members and friends could help by encouraging and supporting women who deal with the mental illness to breastfeed.

The study's findings will be presented at the 18th Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) Annual Conference in Perth.

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