Stress and Breastfeeding: from Science to Practical Tips

At Diana Health we encourage you to breastfeed if it is right for you; however, we realize that sometimes circumstances do not allow a woman to breastfeed her baby. Whether you breastfeed your baby regularly, pump to give your baby breastmilk, or feed your baby with formula, remember that babies can be nourished in a variety of ways. Reach out to your healthcare provider, to us at Diana Health, or a lactation expert if you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding.

Stress happens when we experience a challenge or change. Bringing a new baby into your home is definitely a major change in your life. Even if you are thrilled to have your baby at home with you, it can be a major adjustment to your role, schedule, and sleep, especially if you are breastfeeding. 

Not all stress is bad; stress can motivate us, improve our performance, and help us excel. However, too much chronic stress can negatively impact our physical and mental health. While we don’t want to stress you out, we feel it’s important for breastfeeding moms to understand the potential impacts of stress on their milk supply and production. We’ve shared below some of the science behind stress and breastfeeding, plus some helpful tips to help you combat and manage your stress postpartum. 

What the Science Says

  • Chronic stress has been shown in the research to decrease the average number of months that moms breastfeed. 
  • Stress increases the hormone cortisol in your bloodstream, which can decrease milk supply. 
  • Cortisol can also impact milk content, as cortisol can be passed to your baby through breastmilk. 
  • Excessive negative stress as a new mom may negatively impact breast milk fat content and the energy density of your milk.
  • When you are stressed, you may be distracted or busy trying to take care of whatever has caused the stress. If this leads to less nursing, your milk supply may decrease. 

Stress Management Tips for Breastfeeding Mom

Hopefully, learning about the science of stress and breastfeeding didn’t add to your stress levels! It’s important to remember that having one stressful day is normal and won’t prevent you from nursing. Fortunately, you can do a lot as a new mom to deal with stress in a healthy manner. Check out our stress management strategies below and try the ones that sound most useful to you! 

  • Think about how you can make your breastfeeding spot more relaxing. For example, maybe you can find a more relaxing chair to sit in, play some calming music, cover your legs with a cozy blanket, dim the lights, or put other objects in the room that remind you to pause and relax. 
  • While nursing, try to slow your mind and breathing by mindfully taking a few deep, calming breaths. Just focusing on your breath and pausing may be just what you need to feel calmer. 
  • If breastfeeding is stressful for you or you’re struggling with an aspect of breastfeeding, don’t struggle alone. We (or your care provider) are here to help, please reach out with any concerns, and we will help connect you to lactation resources and/or a lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are a tremendous resource that can help to decrease any nursing stress you’re experiencing. 
  • Consider rolling your head, shrugging your shoulders, making circles with your feet and hands, and trying to release any areas of muscular tension while you are breastfeeding. 
  • Practice mindfulness by noticing how your baby’s skin feels, the sounds they are making as they nurse, any scent that you may smell, and the rise and fall of their chest as they breathe. Mindfulness is a form of stress management that you can do while breastfeeding and at other times. 
  • Listen to relaxing audio recordings while breastfeeding or at other times throughout the day. You may also want to make a relaxing music playlist for breastfeeding.
  • Reach out for professional help if you are feeling sad, depressed, overwhelmed, or very stressed. Postpartum depression and other mental health problems are serious and should be treated as such. Don’t wait. Get help now. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to access the SAMHSA’s National Helpline which is free, confidential, 24/7, available in English and Spanish, for people who are facing mental health and/or substance use disorders. 
  • Practice self-compassion and remind yourself that being a new mom, especially a breastfeeding mom, takes a lot of hard work. You are amazing!

As an adult, you have a lifetime of experiences with managing stress to draw from. You are the expert and know what helps you relax when you are really stressed. See what works best for you during your time as a breastfeeding mother. Remember that this can be a stressful time of life, but breastfeeding is a gift that you are giving to your baby and yourself. Your Diana Health family is here to help you on this journey – reach out if you need support!

By Published On: August 25, 2022Categories: Baby Basics, Mama's Pregnancy, Mama's Prep

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