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How Does Stress Impact Breastfeeding? 5 Ways to Ease Anxiety in Lactating Moms

Mental stress and physical exertion as some of the most important factors influencing breast milk production. Here are few suggestions for lactating moms to help cope up with anxiety.

Updated: August 13, 2023 1:21 PM IST

By Lifestyle Staff | Edited by Onam Gupta

Foods For Better Lactation
How Does Stress Impact Breastfeeding? 5 Ways to Ease Anxiety in Lactating Moms

Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure a child’s health and survival. It is also essential for the mother’s health and helps her to heal during this new phase of life. New moms go through a lot of anxiety and fear while breastfeeding for the first time. This time is extremely stressful and overwhelming for mothers. Stress can have significant effects on lactation in new mothers. Lactation, the process of producing and releasing breast milk, is influenced by various physical and psychological factors, and stress can disrupt this delicate balance.

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Causes of Breastfeeding Stress

  1. Hormonal Changes: Stress triggers the release of certain hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. These hormones can interfere with the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for milk production.
  2. Milk Supply: For some mothers, stress can lead to a decrease in milk supply. The hormonal changes caused by stress can interfere with the production of prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production. When prolactin levels decrease, milk production can be negatively affected.
  3. Breastfeeding Experience: Stress can make breastfeeding a less enjoyable and more challenging experience for some mothers. This may result in feelings of frustration, anxiety, or guilt, which can create a negative feedback loop and further impact lactation.
  4. Baby’s Response: A stressed mother may have tense muscles or exhibit anxious behaviors, which can make it harder for the baby to latch on properly and breastfeed effectively.

Ways to Combat Stress in Lactating Moms

  1. Adequate Rest: Lack of sleep can contribute to stress. Try to rest whenever the baby sleeps and consider enlisting the help of family and friends to take care of household chores or the baby, allowing you to get enough sleep.
  2. Seek Support: Surround yourself with a supportive network of family, friends, or other mothers who can provide emotional support and practical assistance when needed. Do not feel anxious to ask for help. If stress becomes overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek support from a healthcare professional, lactation consultant, or counsellor who can offer guidance and assistance.
  3.  Nutrition: A well-balanced diet with plenty of fluids is crucial for both your health and milk production. Nutrient-rich foods can also support your body’s ability to cope with stress. Women are said to lose 3-5% of their bone mass while nursing their baby. During breastfeeding the oestrogen (hormone required for bone protection) in women also decreases, making the bones weaker. Therefore, the intake of calcium foods and additional supplement during breastfeeding is important and a necessity. Women, who have recently given birth and are breastfeeding, need to incorporate Omega 3 fatty acids in their diet, as it is a crucial source of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). DHA has a number of health benefits for both mother and child, it helps in increasing the breastmilk nutrient content, maternal mood, brain function, hormone balance, and overall postpartum recovery.
  4. Breastfeed Frequently: Frequent breastfeeding will help stimulate milk production and ensure that the baby’s demand is being met.
  5. Skin-to-Skin Contact: Spend time engaging in skin-to-skin contact with your baby, as it can release oxytocin, the hormone responsible for milk letdown and bonding.

According to Rohit Shelatkar, Fitness & Nutrition Expert, VP Vitabiotics Ltd ”Remember, every mother’s journey is different. If a new mother is experiencing difficulties with lactation due to stress, it is essential to seek support and guidance from healthcare professionals, lactation consultants, or support groups specializing in breastfeeding. Reducing stress through relaxation techniques, adequate rest, and emotional support can be beneficial for both the mother and the child.”

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