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Woman Who Couldn't Breastfeed Kills Herself

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Postpartum depression turned deadly for one first-time mother.

breastfeeding--suicide.jpg
It's been determined that a British mother who committed suicide last year in New York had suffered from postnatal depression four months after having her son. Katy Isden's depression, says the report, had been due to her having trouble breastfeeding her infant. Sadly, Isden, in a depressive haze, jumped out of her 20-floor apartment building.

According to the Daily Mail, Isden, 30, had an appointment to see the lactation nurse that morning. "She had seemed depressed about the feeding difficulties but had sought no help about that," states the coroners' reports.

OB/GYN Dr. Elizabeth Lyster says that she's saddened but not surprised by the tragic outcome of this story. "There is a tremendous amount of pressure on mothers to do things right. And if we internalize that pressure it's the quickest way to descend into a downward spiral."

Breastfeeding in particular is a hot-button issue among new parents, says Lyster, but it wasn't always that way. "The pendulum has swung towards breastfeeding at the moment. But 50 or 60 years ago it was thought to be disgusting to do it -- something you hired the help to do."

Lyster cautions her patients if they are having trouble breastfeeding, it might be their own  expectations for success that's the problem. "If you feel tense and stressed, it inhibits the milk flow and milk production."

Do you think there is too much pressure put on moms to breastfeed?



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33 comments so far | Post a comment now
a friend May 7, 2009, 11:55 PM

One other point if I may. Even Katy’s closest friends do not know exactly what happened, but they know a lot more than the Media outlets (newspaper’s/Website’s)to say that her image and name is being misused in a crusade against breastfeeding. Get over it. I am not arguing for or against breastfeeding or bottle feeding, just stating that this tragedy has been sensationalised and manipulated by the media and all those that want to jump on the band wagon.

If I was going to comment on the subject in general and not specifically on the media reaction, would say early identification of Post Partum Depression would be a good place to start. Breastfeeding WAS a contributing factor as were MANY other things. Qualified help would have been able to identify these things and could have helped. The tragedy is in a foreign country (to her) she did not feel the help was accessible and was not treated/helped.

a friend May 8, 2009, 12:44 AM

Sorry Final point to get off my chest. The picture on this website that is credited to the Daily Mail, was used by that particular newspaper without any permission or consent. They confirmed that this was her by ‘doorstepping’ her family in a deceitful manner after printing it from her Facebook page, hence the poor quality of the picture. That they have been allowed to act in the manner they have is a disgrace.

Like I said spare a thought for her family when commenting without the full facts. All those close to Katy, just want to remember her for the fantastic, loving and amazing friend, daughter, sister, wife and mother she was, not a misrepresented ‘advert’ for a campaign that is only adding to their grief in the manner it has been conducted.

Jake Aryeh Marcus May 8, 2009, 4:16 PM

@Anonymous. And you know the “truth” about this woman you never met, how? Did I miss the part in the article where you were mentioned as this mother’s therapist, family member, or coroner?

Your intimate knowledge of strangers has failed you, however, since I have never made a remark to a bottle feeding woman about her feeding choice. Never so much as occurred to me to - thinking either once or twice. Project much?

Allison May 8, 2009, 4:53 PM

I am so troubled by the way this is being used to add fuel to the breast vs. bottle debate. This was a woman who needed help and didn’t get it. If anything her death should be used to discuss all the women who fall through the cracks, all the ways that we fail to serve new moms not about the pressure to breastfeed. But PPD doesn’t sell papers.

TheFeministBreeder May 8, 2009, 4:59 PM

Having a c-section and NOT being able to breastfeed caused me serious PPD/PTSD that I needed to be medicated for. No one did that to me - it was my very own toxic mix of hormones and traumatic events that created my mental state.

Having a vaginal birth and being able to breastfeeding my second baby helped prevent me from experiencing the debilitating PPD/PTSD I carried around after my 1st baby, and healed many of my emotional wounds. I didn’t need to be medicated for PPD/PTSD while I was breastfeeding exclusively.

I get all kinds of dirty looks when I’m nursing my son in public, or when I talk about breastfeeding in front of a person who only formula fed - but do those dirty looks force me to commit suicide? Come on.

It is so irresponsible to minimalize PPD/PTSD into some sort of catfight over breastfeeding. This poor mother had a real problem, a serious problem, and it wasn’t about breastfeeding or formula feeding. My heart goes out to her family and her poor baby.

And shame on the journalists who would use this as a platform to criticize breastfeeding advocates instead of talking about how awful PPD/PTSD can be for a new mother.

If a mother who nurses in public commits suicide, do we get to blame that on all the people who give her dirty looks in the mall when she’s attempting to feed her son? I’m guessing not.

I’ve read over the comments, and I have my own thoughts. Yes, this tragic suicide was a result of the woman’s untreated PPD. As a mom who suffered both from untreated PPD (realized the truth later) and an inability to produce enough milk to breastfeed my son past six weeks (he never learned to latch so I was exclusively pumping, as much as 12 hours a day, taking fenugreek to supplement), I know how completely desperate you can feel when the militant breastfeeders gang up on you and try to make you feel like you’re worthless because you’re using formula.

I ended up creating a LiveJournal community called “Formula Feeders,” a support group for women who choose to bottle feed or are forced to bottle feed for medical or other reasons. It didn’t matter whether members had tried and failed to breastfeed or if they just never tried - I was sick of the judgmental nature of the other moms who felt determined to make me feel inadequate, and I wasn’t about to impose judgment on others.

Yeah, I was depressed pretty bad. (I still suffer from anxiety and depression now, but I’m in the care of a therapist and doing much better.) When one of the male doctors at the OB/GYN practice and one of the male pediatricians both “suggested” that I wasn’t “trying hard enough,” I nearly lost it. Especially the OB/GYN who was supposed to be taking care of ME! After that, I didn’t tell anyone about my doubts or my feelings of inadequacy. I internalized their criticism as I tried in vain to pump milk for my son, barely getting half an ounce after pumping for 30 minutes, every two hours to “spur” milk production. Yeah right. It *doesn’t work for everyone* and women who are already struggling with PPD are particularly vulnerable to outside criticism of things for which they have no control.

So sure, breastfeeding wasn’t the primary cause of this poor woman’s death. But the flak she caught from “Boob Nazis” was a contributing factor. (I dislike the derogatory term, but I started using it after the most vicious verbal attacks I received from some of them for DARING to support moms who use formula.) Moms need to be supportive of other moms. As long as the baby is being fed, let’s just keep our opinions to ourselves about whether the nourishment is coming from the breast or the bottle. You don’t want to be the bully who pushes the school shooter over the edge, so to speak. It’s not far from the same thing.

Mstaken May 11, 2009, 5:55 PM

No I don’t think there is too much pressure to breastfeed. If there were, this woman would have had lots of people offering to help her, at her house helping, etc… They missed the signs that she needed help with breastfeeding and they missed the signs to help with her depresssion.
She obviously had little help, little support.
I had difficulties breastfeeding which I overcame so I think other women aren’t sticking it out long enough and demanding the support they deserve.
Such a sad situation.

L May 15, 2009, 6:30 AM

Breastfeeding problems _can_ lead to PPD. I had trouble producing milk and my child was tongue tied. I tried for months with the help of medications, and lactation specialists while people treated me like I wasn’t trying hard enough.

I developed PPD and was even prescribed Zoloft but I never took it. I didn’t have to because I had a talk with my OB/GYN who told me to ignore the “lactation nazis” and stop torturing myself. I gave up, started feeding my baby formula exclusively and very soon after, she reached a healthy weight and both of us were much happier.

I’m not saying that was the only thing that pushed this girl to the edge. I’m sure it wasn’t—but it’s unfair to put that kind of pressure on a new mom. I wish I could have talked to her to let her know she wasn’t alone.

rima August 18, 2010, 2:01 PM

i m so much convinced about the breastfeeding benifts yet i was not able to breastfeed my baby girl i cried myself out day and night. I also was not breastfed and i m fine and i was a brilliant students me and my bro were bottle fed. I suddenly realized i have to be strong and take care of my baby and close my ears not to hear the breastfeeding mania. I think i m a good mom wether breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Plz lucky women out there who are able to breastfeed have mercy on others and just encourage them to feed their babies and take care of their health. God’s will choose the best for our babies and protect them not our milk.

Anonymous December 28, 2010, 8:20 AM

I find the majority of mums bottle feed, I breastfed my first for 18 months & put her onto cows milk when she was 11 months. I’m still breastfeeding my 11 month old & will switch to cows milk when I go back to work in a couple weeks.

I have lots of milk & find it easy to breastfeed, but feel ashamed to be feeding my baby in public as she’s a bit bigger!! Even around my friends who have babies, they stop after just a few weeks & when I’m still feeding the act like I’m crazy or something

I think you get judged either way

lisa  February 16, 2011, 12:47 AM

ever hear of PUMPING ? I pumped what i could and supplemented formula . women dont think for themselves . such simple solutions . grow up .

the three peaks challenge March 6, 2011, 4:07 PM

A really good set of info which I will be certainly coming back to read again. Thanks very much to all those who contribute.

tabletki na pryszcze April 3, 2011, 7:24 AM

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