Is breastfeeding associated with reduced risk of postpartum depression?

Last updated: February 20, 2022
There is no consensus in the literature on this question. We encourage you to read the study summaries below or the studies themselves if you have access. While the studies in this list that examine the question came to different conclusions, the most recent study here is a literature review, which is a type of study that reviews and often evaluates the findings of many studies on a question. This gives us more confidence that the answer is yes.
This short answer was generated by aggregating the answers that each of the studies below gave to the question (as indicated by State of K members) and adjusting for source quality and other factors. If key studies are missing or the answers attributed to individual studies are incorrect, the above answer could be wrong. For medical questions, don't rely on the information here. Consult a medical professional.
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YES ANSWERS
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NO ANSWERS
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NO DATA ON ANSWER


Chart summary of 4 studies examining this question

All answers are assigned by State of K users. The label Couldn't Identify means that State of K was not able to determine whether a study answers the question "yes" or "no". This could be due to several factors. One possibility is that a study found some evidence to indicate that the answer to the question is "yes" and some evidence to indicate that the answer is "no". This often happens when a study uses two or more proxies to study the same phenomenon (i.e. firearm sales figures and self-reported firearm ownership rates as proxies for the prevalence of firearms) and the proxies yield different results when looking for correlations with another phenomenon (i.e. firearm-related deaths). Alternatively, the label may be applied if the phenomenon under study (i.e. whether breast milk improves cognitive function) is true for one group, but not another (i.e. true for girls, but not for boys). Yet another possibility is that a study found there was insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion regarding the question. Finally, the full text or abstract of a study may not have been written clearly or was inaccessible. This would make it difficult to determine how a study answered a question.

All labels of Literature Reviews and source quality are assigned by State of K. All labels of High Quality Source are assigned based on whether the publication in which the article appeared was ranked as Q1 by Scimago Institutions Rankings. Certain well-regarded think tanks are also given this label.

Literature Reviews
Although we recommend you consider all of the studies below, we believe the following studies are literature reviews, which survey and evaluate many studies on this question:

SUMMARIES OF STUDIES
Total studies in list: 4
Sorted by publication year
1
The Association of Breastfeeding with a Reduced Risk of Postpartum Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
"Background: Previous research has noted an association between breastfeeding and a reduced risk of postpartum depression (PPD). This article provides a systematic review and meta-analysis on the possible association of the type and degree of breastfeeding and PPD.Methods: A systematic literature search in English was conducted by using PubMed, Google Scholar, Scopus, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library Databases from their start dates until January 2021. Outcome estimates were pooled by odds ratios (ORs) or standardized mean differences.Result: Women who did not exclusively breastfeed had 89% higher odds of PPD (OR = 1.89, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.50–2.39). Included studies used different cutoff points for the diagnosis of PPD. Therefore, PPD in nonexclusive breastfeeding mothers was more in studies using the cutoff point 9/10 (OR 1.97, 95% CI 1.46–2.64) as symptoms of depression than those using the cutoff point 12 (OR 1.78, 95% CI 1.21–2.61). Some studies reported PPD based on means and the others reported it based on OR. Accordingly, nonexclusive breastfeeding mothers had higher odds of PPD in studies calculating the effect size based on means (OR 1.62, 95% CI 1.19–2.19) and OR (OR 2.36, 95% CI 1.65–3.39) than in other studies.Conclusion: This review showed that exclusive breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk for PPD."
AUTHOR
Rasoul Alimi
PUBLISHED
2021 Breastfeeding Medicine
Literature Review
High Quality Source
Yes
Yes
2
Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression: An Overview and Methodological Recommendations for Future Research
"Initially the relationship between breastfeeding and postpartum depression was conceptualized to be unidirectional, with postpartum depression resulting in lower rates of breastfeeding initiation and early cessation [30]. More recently however, reports indicate that the relationship may be bidirectional in nature, suggesting that while postpartum depression may reduce rates of breastfeeding, not engaging in breastfeeding may increase the risk of postpartum depression. Additionally, there is some evidence that breastfeeding may protect against postpartum depression or assist in a swifter recovery from symptoms [28].The association between breastfeeding and postpartum depression has been studied by a number of investigators, but the direction of this relationship and the question of whether it is a direct relationship still eludes us. Numerous studies on the topic of breastfeeding and postpartum depression have come to contrasting conclusions, likely a result of the interaction between the numerous and complex physiological, psychological, and sociocultural mechanisms potentially responsible for the relationship [31], as well as the use of varying methods for studying the association. Specifically, a number of researchers have reported no relationship between breastfeeding and postpartum depression (e.g., see [32]) and two early reports suggested that breastfeeding mothers have a higher risk of depression [33, 34]. In contrast, a number of more recent studies have revealed that women who formula feed have higher rates of depression than women who breastfeed (e.g., see [35]), while other researchers have shown that mothers who experience postpartum depression are at greater risk of early breastfeeding cessation (e.g., see [36])."
AUTHOR
Carley J. Pope
PUBLISHED
2016 Depression Research and Treatment
Literature Review
High Quality Source
Couldn't Identify
Couldn't Identify
3
Breastfeeding and depression: A systematic review of the literature
"AbstractBackgroundResearch has separately indicated associations between pregnancy depression and breastfeeding, breastfeeding and postpartum depression, and pregnancy and postpartum depression. This paper aimed to provide a systematic literature review on breastfeeding and depression, considering both pregnancy and postpartum depression.MethodsAn electronic search in three databases was performed using the keywords: “breast feeding”, “bottle feeding”, “depression”, “pregnancy”, and “postpartum”. Two investigators independently evaluated the titles and abstracts in a first stage and the full-text in a second stage review. Papers not addressing the association among breastfeeding and pregnancy or postpartum depression, non-original research and research focused on the effect of anti-depressants were excluded. 48 studies were selected and included. Data were independently extracted.ResultsPregnancy depression predicts a shorter breastfeeding duration, but not breastfeeding intention or initiation. Breastfeeding duration is associated with postpartum depression in almost all studies. Postpartum depression predicts and is predicted by breastfeeding cessation in several studies. Pregnancy and postpartum depression are associated with shorter breastfeeding duration. Breastfeeding may mediate the association between pregnancy and postpartum depression. Pregnancy depression predicts shorter breastfeeding duration and that may increase depressive symptoms during postpartum.LimitationsThe selected keywords may have led to the exclusion of relevant references.ConclusionsAlthough strong empirical evidence regarding the associations among breastfeeding and pregnancy or postpartum depression was separately provided, further research, such as prospective studies, is needed to clarify the association among these three variables. Help for depressed pregnant women should be delivered to enhance both breastfeeding and postpartum psychological adjustment."
AUTHOR
Cláudia CastroDias
PUBLISHED
2015 Journal of Affective Disorders
Literature Review
High Quality Source
Yes
Yes
4
Breastfeeding and Maternal Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
"AimTo evaluate the effect of breastfeeding on long-term (breast carcinoma, ovarian carcinoma, osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes mellitus) and short-term (lactational amenorrhoea, postpartum depression, postpartum weight change) maternal health outcomes.MethodsA systematic literature search was conducted in PubMed, Cochrane Library and CABI databases. Outcome estimates of odds ratios or relative risks or standardised mean differences were pooled. In cases of heterogeneity, subgroup analysis and meta-regression were explored.ResultsBreastfeeding >12 months was associated with reduced risk of breast and ovarian carcinoma by 26% and 37%, respectively. No conclusive evidence of an association between breastfeeding and bone mineral density was found. Breastfeeding was associated with 32% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Exclusive breastfeeding and predominant breastfeeding were associated with longer duration of amenorrhoea. Shorter duration of breastfeeding was associated with higher risk of postpartum depression. Evidence suggesting an association of breastfeeding with postpartum weight change was lacking.ConclusionThis review supports the hypothesis that breastfeeding is protective against breast and ovarian carcinoma, and exclusive breastfeeding and predominant breastfeeding increase the duration of lactational amenorrhoea. There is evidence that breastfeeding reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, an association between breastfeeding and bone mineral density or maternal depression or postpartum weight change was not evident."
AUTHOR
Ranadip Chowdhury
PUBLISHED
2015 Acta Paediatrica
Literature Review
Yes
Yes