How Does Stress Affect Breastfeeding?

Having a baby and now raising them is going to be as rewarding as it is stressful at times. For many new mothers, this means tackling sleepless nights, discomfort, and other problems that you weren’t prepared for. While motherhood can be overwhelming at times, however, you can get in control of the stress before it starts to affect your breastfeeding plan and life.

Let’s talk about how stress affects breastfeeding and how to keep stress out of your life.

Where Does Stress Come From?

Stress is a present force in our lives, whether we welcome it or not. Stress will pop up unexpectedly, and it can cause a number of issues for anyone. Plus, everyone handles stress differently. What might affect you strongly could have little effect on someone else, and there is nothing wrong with that. It does mean, however, that your coping skills will need to be unique to you.

Unfortunately, stress can affect breastfeeding and even put a strain on the relationship with your child and other family members.

Knowing where stress comes from is the first step to understanding how it will affect your body and breastfeeding. Familiarize yourself with some of the common causes below so you can better protect yourself against stress:

  • Pain – soreness, pain from delivery, and other discomforts from breast engorgement and so on can cause stress on the body.
  • Concerns about breastmilk supply and quality
  • Difficult birth experiences
  • Privacy concerns
  • Lack of confidence in yourself
  • Exhaustion
  • Changes with your body after pregnancy – your hormones will change and be in flux for months after your pregnancy. You may feel stressed because of these changes, but be patient and give your body time to bounce back.
  • Relationship problems
  • Family problems
  • Financial problems
  • Health issues and concerns
  • Social media and societal standards

How Does Stress Affect Breastfeeding?

As you can see, stress comes from a number of sources. When you are swimming in the stress hormone cortisol, it can impact breastfeeding two ways: the content of your milk and the quantity of your milk. Cortisol is often released with both adrenaline and norepinephrine, which can cause physical and emotional changes.

You might feel depressed, not sleep as well, and you may lose your appetite. A lack of sleep and nutrition will result in less milk produced and a poorer quality. Your baby will need to nurse more frequently because the milk isn’t satisfying. Illness can also increase stress and reduce your milk supply.

Can Stress Affect a Nursing Mom?

There have been several studies that found breastfed babies often have up to 40-percent more cortisol in their bodies than their formula-fed counterparts. This suggests that the cortisol from the mother can be passed through the breastmilk to the child, something called “secondhand cortisol.” Babies that are exposed to cortisol over long periods may become more agitated and cry more easily than those who are less stressed.

Tips For Cutting Down on Stress

Although stress is an unavoidable part of life in most circumstances, you can learn how to cope with stress more effectively. Having healthy methods for reducing stress will not only help you with breastfeeding, but it will keep your baby calmer as well. In the future, you can pass on these tips for coping with stress to your child as they tackle their own life problems. But for now, use them to get yourself moving and feeling happier.

Here are some ways to cut down on stress that you can do almost anywhere:

  • Find time to get regular exercise and release some endorphins—feel-good hormones that can help both energize your body and refresh your mind. Try mom-and-me exercise classes, go for walks, or enlist your family to watch your baby while you head to the gym for a workout.
  • Practice deep-breathing techniques.
  • Go meet up with some friends that you haven’t seen in a while.
  • Find 15-20 minutes a day to do something you love that is also relaxing, such as gardening, reading a book, taking a relaxing bath, doing some yoga, or going for a bike ride.
  • Get as much sleep as you can. Try to take a nap while your baby naps or lie down during nursing to rest your body.
  • Listen to your favorite kind of music. Research has proven that music can help you overcome pain, sadness, and sleeplessness.
  • Disconnect from social media and your devices. Sometimes, what you see on social media is going to add to the stress, so turn off the television and remove yourself from the digital world for a bit. Do one of the other activities on this list to occupy your time.
  • Talk about it. If you are feeling stressed and nothing is helping, try talking to your partner, your parents, a therapist or doctor. Having clear communication with someone that understands you can remove a great deal of weight from your shoulders. You are not alone in this.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are experiencing stress from the pregnancy or dealing with other problems, it can have a negative impact on both you and your baby. While stress cannot always be avoided, remember that the way you react to it can help you work through the problems. Find yourself a supportive team who will help you when challenges arise and keep a positive light shining.

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