A recovering postpartum mother has reported exceeding levels of stress while breastfeeding. Recovering from childbirth, coupled with sleepless nights spent in the care of the infant can make even the most prepared mothers stressful. Additional to this, day to day worries of the family, work, and the child can take a toll on mother’s physical and mental being. Stress can have an adverse effect on breastfeeding in turn leading to several complications in the infant. Let’s understand what causes the stress & how to cope up stress during breastfeeding.
For any mother, breastfeeding can be the most rewarding experience of their lives. But when stress levels in the body increases, the level of quality and quantity of milk decreases. This in turn, stresses the mother even more and starting the vicious cycle of continuous effects of stress on breastfeeding.
As a trusted and renowned maternity hospital in Surat, India, our expert lactation consultants and expert gynecologists have prepared a guide on the adverse relationship of stress on breastfeeding. We answer questions like how stress affects breastfeeding and its overall effects on the baby. Also, guide the nursing parents on how to cope with stressful situations.
How Does Stress Affect Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding can be affected by stress in two ways: milk supply and milk content. When the nursing mother is stressed, her body releases cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine to help cope up with the stress. While these hormones may momentarily assist the body in coping up with a stressful event, they can have a harmful physical and emotional impact over time.
Stress has minimal effect on milk production. The amount of milk produced by the body is determined by the quantity needed by the infant. The more milk it consumes, the more the body produces. Stress combined with insufficient food intake and unable to nurse the infant frequently can affect breastfeeding. Maternal diseases and medications and their stress can result in lower milk production. Cortisol- a stress busting hormone can enter the breastmilk and alter its content.
How Does Stress Affect the Nursing Infant?
Breastfed babies have a reported 40% more cortisol as compared to formula-fed newborns. The cortisol hormone triggers the neurotransmitters in the brain, influencing the emotion-regulated areas. Several worldwide studies have found out that higher cortisol levels in infants become agitated severely when placed in unfamiliar environments.
Reasons for Breastfeeding Stress
1). Physical Changes
The hormonal changes taking place during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum create havoc in the body. There are a lot of physical and mental changes taking place simultaneously. These changes can bring down the confidence of the new mother. This in turn increases the stress levels and circulates to even more changes.
After delivery pains are real and can cause a nursing mother a certain amount of stress. During breastfeeding, nipples can become sore and can cause even more discomfort. Regardless of the root cause, pain can be a major stressor for the body. It stresses the nursing mother into producing less milk.
3). Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can ruin a new mother’s motivation toward breastfeeding. Several postpartum emotions like feeling insecure, guilt, and disappointment can lower the ability to breastfeed. Insufficient milk supply can make the infant cranky which in turn stresses the mother even more.
4). Breastfeeding Obstacles
Some new moms have difficulty controlling their milk production and assisting their infant in latching properly. They are concerned that their kid isn’t getting enough milk or is being excessively fussy.
Remember, it is not the fault of mothers for the insufficient supply of breastmilk. It is advisable to give the new mother space and not stress her even more.
Healthy Ways to Cope up With Stress during Breastfeeding
While one cannot totally escape stress but can learn to manage it in a healthy way. Having coping skills on hand can assist nursing mothers in reducing stress and preventing it from interfering with good breastfeeding.
1). Lifestyle Habits
Begin by looking after the body. Make an effort to eat healthy foods and get adequate sleep. Although tit can be difficult for new mothers, but it helps in managing stress. Exercising can help in relaxing the body. It causes the body to release endorphins, which are natural feel-good hormones.
2). Watch out for the Stressors
Finding the fundamental cause is the first step in resolving any problem. Breastfeeding causes a lot of anxiety for most mothers because they aren’t sure how to do it correctly. This could become a big source of worry in the future.
The doctors at Nirmal Hospital – the most trusted maternity hospital in Surat, suggest that you “Seek the advice of a lactation counselor or who can assist you in resolving all of your concerns and issues about nursing. It is important to listen to what the experts say rather than making your own assumptions that may lead to an even more stressful environment for the mother and infant”.
3). Indulge in Stress Relievers
Do what the body loves. Handling the baby 24/7 can cause even the most prepared mothers a meltdown. When in a stressful situation, it is advised to keep the baby aside even if it is crying and take a walk. Fresh air and movement help as a stress buster.
Or else take some calm, deep breaths if not able to go for a walk. Concentrating on your inhale and exhale can help relax the body as well.
A Word of Advice
Finally, keep in mind that supply and demand are virtually totally responsible for milk production. In order to produce the milk the baby requires, breasts need to be emptied frequently depending on the milk storage capacity.
Breastfeeding can be a difficult and stressful experience, especially for new parents. However, if they are aware of the most typical stressors faced while nursing, can help them deal with them.
Remember that breastfeeding is a healthy decision that will benefit the kid in a variety of ways. But it’s perfectly fine if it doesn’t work out. Fed is the greatest option.
You can always reach out to our experts at Nirmal Hospital and get your breastfeeding queries solved. Also, listen to Dr. Santosh Yadav as he talks about the “Adverse Effects of Stress on Premature Nursing Mothers”.