collected survey data between February and July 2020 from 670 U.S. postpartum patients who completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale online and provided demographic information.
This study found that moms who fed infants formula had 92% greater odds of screening positive for postpartum depression and were 73% more likely to screen positive for major depressive symptoms, compared to those who breastfed or bottle-fed with their own human milk.
Moms with infants in neonatal intensive care units had 74% greater odds of screening positive, and each one-week increase in weeks postpartum increased the odds of screening positive by 4%.
“We also found that almost 1 in 5 participants who screened positive for postpartum depression reported having thoughts of harming themselves. This is very concerning given that before the pandemic”, said lead author Clayton Shuman, U-M assistant professor of nursing.
Previous research found that breastfeeding support resources such as lactation consults were limited during early COVID and may have increased distress or caused people to switch to formula.
Stress from supply chain problems that resulted in formula shortages could have also contributed to depression.
Finally, studies suggest that breastfeeding may help to protect postpartum patients from postpartum depression, helping to minimize the severity of depressive symptoms and improving recovery time.
Resources and education about postpartum depression must be better disseminated and implemented. These resources should be shared with the general public to reduce stigma and shared with those who provide social and emotional support to postpartum patients, such as partners and family members.