Stress & Breastfeeding: Tips To Help You Deal
By Emily Berger | May 20, 2019
Stress. A simple word that holds so much meaning, in so many different ways, to so many mothers around the world. Did you know that stress can affect your breast milk, its supply level, and even our bonding journey with our newborn?
1 Natural Way is here to help you better understand some common sources of stress for new moms, how it affects your breastfeeding, and a few ways to cope and manage so that your breastfeeding journey is less impacted by everyday stressors.
Why Am I Stressed Out?
There are a litany of reasons for mothers of newborns and infants to feel stressed out. Sure, having a baby is an incredibly joyous time, but the weight of financial worries, changing hormone levels, raising several children, going back to work, a baby's temperament, lack of breastfeeding support, relationships with family members and so much more can really stress you out! Phew!
Here are a few more common stressors that mothers just like you face:
- Lack of Sleep - Breastfeeding baby frequently and taking care of a newborn, coupled with everyday chores, tasks and appointments really weighs on a mother’s sleep cycle! As it compounds, lack of sleep can make daily tasks much harder to cope with and have you feeling plain old exhausted!
- After Delivery Pain - While having a natural birth can cause an immense amount of pain to your pelvic floor, those mothers who have had a cesarean birth must deal with the pain of a wound healing, while trying to tend to their newborn. Breastfeeding is not easy when you have a C-section incision in a place where baby may need to rest on while feeding. Pain from an episiotomy can also add to daily discomfort during your first few weeks at home - not to mention, the amount of bleeding and uterine discomfort mothers’ feel in the weeks after birth.
- Breastfeeding Fears - Why isn’t baby latching properly? What if I don’t want to breastfeed in public? Why am I not making enough milk for my own child? What if I want to pump my milk exclusively and not nurse? These questions and more often linger in the minds of mothers when it comes to pumping and nursing. Comparing your personal breastfeeding journey to that of family members, friends, influences and celebrities may have us feeling doubtful and stressed.
How Does Stress Affect Breastfeeding?
You can bet baby feels their mother’s uneasiness and, since mom is the primary producer of breast milk (a life-sustaining, nutrient-fortified, antibody-producing powerhouse), the milk can also be affected! Too much stress can have negative side effects. And we’re not telling you to stress you out more… we want you to know just how important it is to take care of YOU!
- Decreased breast milk supply - when a mother is feeling stressed out, she may not want to breastfeed as often. This leads to a decrease in supply since baby is not nursing as often.
- Inhibit the letdown reflex - when nerves in your breast are stimulated by baby sucking on your nipple, oxytocin (a hormone) prompts small muscles around milk-producing cells to contract and squeeze milk into the ducts. The letdown reflex ensures that baby gets enough milk. If a mother is stressed, her body may release more adrenaline, thereby decreasing or blocking prolactin (a hormone that promotes milk production) and oxytocin.
- Bonding - during feeding, when baby is not latching like they should, mom gets frustrated and then baby gets even more agitated. All the while, mom is stressed and questioning what she is doing wrong; that her own child won’t feed from her properly. She then becomes anxious every time it is time for a feeding. The bond between the child and mother may become strained.
- Early weaning - long-lasting stress and stressful feeding experiences can hinder the nursing routine. This may lead to a child stopping breastfeeding long before their natural weaning begins.
- Milk composition - mothers who are stressed often have a high amount of the hormone cortisol in their breast milk. Cortisol may affect baby's temperament and development. Stress and coping mechanisms also bring about an increase in consumption of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, medicine, unhealthy foods, etc. These items make their way into your breastmilk supply, thereby changing the milk composition. Of course, those consuming items that endanger the health of baby should seek help from their primary care physician in order to find solutions to stress factors.
How to Destress
Sure, de-stressing is easier said than done when you have a crying baby, dinner in the oven, work emails piling up, dogs ready to be walked, the mail carrier delivering a pile of bills, children running around the house writing on the walls and so on. Good news, though - it can be done!
Here are some simple ways to destress while at home:
- Sleep when baby sleeps. An extra nap or two make a world of difference. Laundry and dirty dishes can wait!
- Talk to your partner or family members. Discuss what is stressing you out and what kind of solution they can help you work toward. The discussion may not always be easy, but it helps in the end. The first step is bringing it up.
- Change where and how you breastfeed. Try breastfeeding lying down. Move your go-to breastfeeding chair to another room. Set up a breastfeeding friendly area with a place to binge on Netflix, guzzle some water and kick your feet up.
- Pump that breast milk! Maybe nursing isn’t for you, for whatever reason. You can still give your little one breast milk by pumping for them. 1 Natural Way can help connect you with the perfect breast pump!
- Set a schedule and stick to it! Some mother’s thrive in an organized environment, and live and die by their calendar. Being a mom can sometimes throw that timeline into the wind and create a stressful environment. However, some mothers feel that set times lead to even more stress, in this case, let it go and roll with it!
- We know it’s hard - but try to find 20 minutes to take a warm bath (alone) to soothe your tense muscles and promote deep breathing.
Here are some simple ways to destress while out of the house:
- Hit the gym! Release those endorphins and work up a sweat. You could even enroll in a baby and mommy workout class!
- Take your family pet out for a walk. Alone works, but even pushing around your little one in a stroller while taking in a beautiful, sunny afternoon has its advantages too!
- Meet other mothers just like you. Discussing your problems, while finding someone to relate to, has a healing quality. Decompressing to someone who is willing to listen is key.
- Grocery shop... in the healthy aisles! Stock up on foods with healthy, nutritious, vitamin-filled items. 1 Natural Way has written a guide all about foods to eat and avoid while breastfeeding. Click here to read all about it.
- Go see a movie! Often times, local movie theaters offer a showing that are strictly for mothers and children or their newborns. You’ll be among your peers and with many other screaming kids and nursing mothers.
- Enroll in a yoga or meditation class. Deep breathing techniques and stretches can help calm you down at home.
1 Natural Way offers a complete array of products and services to make moms more comfortable and confident throughout their pregnancy and breastfeeding journey. We provide mothers with name brand breast pumps, monthly breastfeeding supplies, maternity compression stockings and postpartum recovery garments, as well as expert and compassionate advice and top-notch customer service. Click here to start the qualification process and find out if you qualify for a breast pump at no cost to you.
About the Author
As a Medical Documentation Specialist at 1 Natural Way, Emily Berger works with doctors' offices on moms' behalf to get prescriptions for breast pumps, pump supplies and other insurance-covered products. A few years ago, as she prepared to welcome her second child, Emily joined online communities of moms to discuss the joys and challenges of breastfeeding. Grateful for the information and support she received, she decided to pay it forward in posts. In her spare time, Emily enjoys baking and spending time with her family.