After Losing His Wife to Postpartum Depression, Grieving Husband Questions Pro-Breastfeeding Message

In late October 2016, Florence Leung disappeared, leaving behind her husband and 2-month-old son. Two weeks later, Florence was found in the waters near her home in New Westminster, Canada.

The new mom suffered from postpartum depression, and authorities concluded her death was self-inflected.

"Since my Flo has been found, our whole family is devastated and grieving right now. However, we must all be strong for…

Posted by Remembering Mother Florence Leung on Monday, November 21, 2016

In the months since her death, Kim Cheng, Florence’s husband, has written about how difficult it is to go on without her. A month after Florence’s body had been discovered, he shared why seeing photos of them together was almost “too much to bear.”

On December 31, Florence’s birthday, Chen wrote directly to his wife, and said that they would save a seat for her at the celebration of her life.

Then, on January 17, exactly two months after the day the police knocked on the door with the tragic news, Chen took to Facebook to spread a message about postpartum depression and the expectations we have of mothers—especially when it comes to breastfeeding.

It's been one month since Flo was found. It's been a truly difficult journey. The initial emotional shock and numbness…

Posted by Remembering Mother Florence Leung on Friday, December 16, 2016

According to Babble, the grieving husband wrote that he knew why the officers were there before they even uttered a word, and that ever since, he’s been trying to rebuild his life:

“I have been living in survival mode: living a day at a time, sometimes an hour at a time … [it] is truly the only way to go through this at this stage. As the initial shock and emotional numbness slowly subside, I’m experiencing more flashbacks of memories from our 6.5 years of happiness, and for now these memories tend to trigger pain and intense longing.”

Chen then turned his attention to the issue of postpartum depression, with a message for anyone who may be going through the same thing Florence did:

“For all the new moms experiencing low mood or anxiety, please seek help and talk about your feelings. You are Not alone. You are Not a bad mother.”

Chen shared a criticism about the “breast is best” message used to encourage new mothers to breastfeed. Some experts on postpartum depression have argued that the pro-breastfeeding campaign can provoke feelings of inadequacy, shame, and guilt in mothers who have difficulty breastfeeding.

Flo and Kim's maternity photoshoot (by Flo). Flo was an avid photographer, and was her interest and passion outside of work.

Posted by Remembering Mother Florence Leung on Monday, November 14, 2016

Chen agrees. He wrote:

“Do not EVER feel bad or guilty about not being able to ‘exclusively breastfeed’ even though you may feel the pressure to do so based on posters in maternity wards, brochures in prenatal classes, and teachings at breastfeeding classes. Apparently the hospitals are designated ‘baby-friendly’ only if they promote exclusive breastfeeding.”

It is evident to him that the breastfeeding message had an effect on Florence in her first weeks as a new mom:

“I still remember reading a handout upon Flo’s discharge from hospital with the line ‘Breast Milk Should Be the Exclusive Food For the Baby for the First Six Months.’ I also remember posters on the maternity unit ‘Breast is Best.’ While agreeing to the benefits of breast milk, there NEED to be an understanding that it is OK to supplement with formula, and that formula is a completely viable option.”

And several comments on Chen’s memorial post make it clear that Florence wasn’t the only mother affected by the ubiquitous breastfeeding campaign.

Many people came forward to share their own experiences with postpartum depression and difficulty breastfeeding:

Chen wrote that he hopes he can help other new moms who could be suffering from postpartum depression.

According to Global News, BC Woman’s Hospital responded with a statement that outlined their respect for women’s choices when it comes to feeding their children. The hospital added that they offer information and alternatives for moms who cannot breastfeed.

What do you think?

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