Being a new mom can be stressful. If you are or plan to breastfeed you may wonder what the effects of stress on breastfeeding is. Quite often you’re not sure of your ability to take care of a newborn, especially if you’re a first time mom. Is there cause for concern?
Stress is natural part of our lives. It is the way in which we react to things around us and to the things that are not ordinarily occurring around us. Stressors can be good or bad, depending upon the reaction we have to them.
Stress produces any number of symptoms, including physical symptoms like chest pains, headaches, and stomach problems; mental problems such as inability to focus, problems making decisions, and memory loss; emotional symptoms such as anxiety, guilt, and irritability; and social symptoms such as eating too much or too little and over-usage of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco.
How Stress Effects Breastfeeding
Should you be concerned about whether stress will affect your baby and your ability to breastfeed? Experts at the La Leche League admit that it is not uncommon for a woman to experience a drop in their milk supply while in a stressful situation. This may occur through delayed let-down or inhibited let-down. Luckily, if the mother is able to take time to relax, it is possible for the drop in milk supply to reverse itself.
Even though your milk supply may not be as steady as in the past, don’t give up breastfeeding while you’re under stress. Breastfeeding can actually be comforting and relaxing, thus reducing the stress you might feel. This reduction is due to the hormone prolactin that is released into the bloodstream while your child feeds.
Don’t think that you can’t provide enough milk for your child when you’re stressed. You can. Breastfeeding may seem more like work and may be less enjoyable for the mother, but women have breastfed during famines, wars, and other stressful situations for centuries.
How to Cope With Stress and Breastfeeding
What can you do if you’re stressed and breastfeeding? These suggestions may help you to handle the stress and successfully breastfeed at the same time.
• Realize that you can’t control what’s going on around you in many cases. However, you may be able to control how you react to those situations.
• Read parenting or breastfeeding books to help prepare you for breastfeeding changes. Consult a lactation consultant if you’re at all concerned that you’re not producing enough milk.
• Try to focus on solutions to things that cause you stress rather than concentrating on the problems themselves. If your problems stem from breastfeeding itself, find out if there are ways to combat that problem. Ask for advice from other nursing moms when dealing with sore nipples, thrush, or other breastfeeding issues.
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• Take care of yourself. Continue to get plenty of rest, eat a well-balanced diet, and get plenty of liquids. All of these things will help your supply of milk. Don’t hesitate to take time for yourself when you can, especially if Daddy can take over. Not only will this help you relax, it will also give the baby and Daddy time to bond.
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Being stressed may affect your ability to produce milk for breastfeeding, but it isn’t the end of the world – no matter how much that may seem to be true. The effects of stress on breastfeeding are not permanent. Take care of yourself, relax, and talk to other nursing moms. You may find that what you’re going through is natural, and that it will take care of itself with a few minor changes to your life.
Resources for Breastfeeding
Like you don’t already have enough to worry about now! If you are stuck at home, here are some other resources that will help you get a plan and hopefully stress less!