Can breastfeeding help to protect long-term maternal emotional health?

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The importance of exclusive breastfeeding is rarely questioned in relation to optimising the physical and cognitive development of infants (World Health Organization (WHO) 2017). Public health agencies also promote an array of benefits of breastfeeding for maternal physical health (NHS Choices 2017). Without question, practitioners have a pivotal role in promoting the emotional well-being of mothers (Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) 2015) and this has been deemed to be of equal importance as their physical well-being (NHS England 2016). It has been suggested that around one in ten mothers experience poor emotional health during the postpartum period (NHS Choices 2016), so it is important that we examine the influence of lactation on maternal emotional well-being and consider the relationship between involuntary breastfeeding cessation and the onset of postpartum depressive symptoms.

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