Bristol, U.K. (CBS ATLANTA) — Women who plan and then follow through with breastfeeding are half as likely to become depressed following birth as mothers who had planned and followed through on not breastfeeding.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge and in Spain analyzed data from 14,000 births in the United Kingdom to determine that one-in-eight women experienced depression within three years after the birth of their child. The study found there was a 50 percent reduction in the risk of post-natal depression for mothers who planned to breastfeed and then followed through on the plan.

However, there was a large increase in the risk of depression in mothers who planned to breastfeed but were unable to do follow through in the plan.

Dr. Maria Iacovou, one of the researchers, told the BBC: “Breastfeeding does appear to have a protective effect, but there’s the other side of the coin as well…it benefits the mental health of mothers.”

“It is right to tell mothers it’s right to breastfeed, there’s so many benefits, but the thing we need to rethink is giving more support to those who did want to breastfeed and to recognize those who are unable to, are at substantially elevated risk and to make sure health visitors keep an eye on these women.”

Dr. Iacovou noted that psychological and social factors surround mothers’ breastfeeding, such as feelings of “failing as a mother.”

In order to avoid pain and pressures of anxiety and lack of sleep, senior adviser at parenting charity NCT, Rosemary Dodds, tells the BBC.

“Breastfeeding can help to relax mothers and reduce stress, so it might play a part in preventing mental health issues developing,” said Dodds. “We welcome further research into this subject as perinatal mental health is a huge issue for many mothers. At least one in ten suffer with postnatal depression.”

Other research has indicated that breastfeeding can lead to decreased risks of Type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancers.

According to 2013 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the percentage of U.S. infants who begin breastfeeding is high at 77 percent, although many are not breastfed as long as recommended.

Of infants born in 2010, 49 percent were breastfeeding up to 6 months, up from 35 percent in 2000. The breastfeeding rate at 12 months increased from 16 percent to 27 percent during the same time period.


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