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Does Bottle-Feeding Cause Postpartum Depression?

The breast versus bottle fight has taken a turn, now that an evolutionary scientist has gotten involved. Most of the debate thus far has focused on the physical benefits of breastfeeding, both to mama and baby.

But what if evolution designed us so that breastfeeding is emotionally, psychologically preferable to formula-feeding?

Intriguing new research suggests that some women develop postpartum depression due to reaching for the bottle instead of pulling out the breast.


The relatively small study–50 women–was performed with this in mind:

In the past, when women did not breastfeed, what was the reason? Often: Infant death. How might that carry over to affect bottle-feeding women now?

The mothers of the 4-6-week-olds were surveyed for postpartum depression. Factors such as age, socioeconomic status, relationship status, and education did not elevate a woman’s risk for the so-called “baby blues”.

But whether a woman breastfed or bottle-fed their infant did. Breastfeeding mamas were less likely to have postpartum depression.

Evolutionary psychologist Gordon G. Gallup says that inherently, through hundreds of thousands of years of conditioning, a mother may relate not breastfeeding to actually losing that infant. After all, feeding infant formula is relatively new; only since the Victorian period. And we don’t exactly have data on the postpartum rate for women who sent their children to wet nurses. More research is clearly needed.

Interestingly, the team of researchers say that the practice of removing infants to the hospital nursery may have a similar effect on mamas.

It may not, after all, be the lactivists that cause a bottle-feeder guilt. It may simply be biology.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. The decision to breast-feed is yours. Take at least as much time to learn about breastfeeding as you did when you picked out your babies crib; more if you can spare it. Arm yourself with knowledge and then make a decision. Only you can decide if breastfeeding is right for you family.

  2. duhsies says:

    Of course the decision to breastfeed is yours but You should put forth twice the time into deciding to breast feed then picking out a crib, if you did, you were learn that there are so many benefits not only for baby but for mother, too. (as this study points out) The benefits in the formula feeding link are all superficial and half truths. It talks as if its a good thing that a formula fed baby eats less frequently because its harder to digest. But this in turn leads to a strain in the delicate digestive track. This (and the lack of other factors) lead to the baby being at higher risk of illness and infection. Not only that but because formula produces more waste when digested, formula fed babies are more at risk of constipation and other digestive issues. All because the mother doesn’t want to the baby attached the breast as much? Oh but don’t worry, she can go out and party and leave baby with grandma.

  3. Interesting research and would like to know more but I would also like to point out some experiences and research that also point out the opposite – how breastfeeding can also lead to post-partum depression. I BFed my child for the first year until he self-weaned at 12 months. I was devasted that he weaned bc his dairy allergy didn’t leave for an easy alternative. But once I had stopped BFed, it was like a shroud that dulled my life had been lifted. I realized how deep and devasting my year long postpartum was and how it had completely sucked the joy out of the first year of motherhood. So much so that 3 years later, neither my partner or I can begin to think of having another child. I know my experiences aren’t representative of many others, and nor it is popular, but it should also be kept in mind. I’ve very much an attachment parent, still co-sleeping, and still a strong advocate for BF, but am now more understanding of people’s choices and difficulty that goes into making them.


  1. […] of us who believe in natural processes, like breastfeeding and childbirth without medical interventions, won’t be surprised to hear this […]

  2. […] Does Bottle-Feeding Cause Postpartum Depression? […]

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