Although she believes breastfeeding is ideally the best option, she agrees with de Waal that there are disadvantages, including putting more responsibility and time restraints on the mother and creating an unequal relationship between the parents and infant.
However, other experts do believe there might be more of a beneficial mental health aspect to breastfeeding.
Dr. Stephen Davide Frausto, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital, said in an email that there can be mental health benefits from breastfeeding for both the infant and mother.
“When breastfeeding, a hormone called prolactin is released by the mother, attributing to a sense of wellbeing and comfort towards the newborn,” Frausto said in an email.
“Breastfeeding can create a psychological bond that makes the baby feel secure and puts the mother at ease knowing she can provide for her child, now and forever.”
He said that it’s best to provide some breast milk for infants rather than only formula, and if mothers have difficulties breastfeeding, they can receive help from lactation specialists.
“Some mothers cannot produce enough milk for the child and may feel a sense of failure,” Frausto said. “Mothers need to remember that even some breast milk is better than none.”
For mothers who are taking antidepressants or other prescription drugs to help with mental health disorders, they should talk to a doctor before breastfeeding about reducing the amount of drugs they are on in order to prevent them being transferred to the infant, he said.
Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, a health psychologist and an international board certified lactation consultant, said in an email that breastfeeding can lead to long-term health benefits for mothers.
“These effects include less heart disease, lower rates of diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and lower rates of depression,” Kendall-Tackett said.
“You specifically see these effects because breastfeeding downregulates the stress response, which is related to not only depression, but a whole host of other health problems.