Oh, stress! Even without breastfeeding and caring for a newborn child, stress is ever-present. It’s a part of life. We can’t prevent stress from happening. Our body is wired to respond and react to situations, by releasing the cortisol hormone into our bloodstream.
A good amount of stress is positive and healthy, it signals the “fight or flight” response that’s kept humans alive for years. Negative stress, on the other hand, is harmful and has brought an onslaught of health problems to all. And for mothers, stress can affect one’s ability to breastfeed successfully.
Breastfeeding and Stress
When new moms experience too much stress, it can affect their breastfeeding experience. Some moms have reported a decrease in their milk supply when there’s too much anxiety in their everyday life. There have also been cases when mothers had a difficult let-down reflex.
The let-down reflex or the milk-ejection reflex is the natural response in your body when your baby begins to latch onto your breasts and starts sucking. This reflex signals your brain to release prolactin and oxytocin. When stressed, new moms may have to deal with a slow or painful let-down.
Before those facts add even more to your stress, know that breastfeeding has power! When breastfeeding, hormones that promote relaxation and feelings of love are released to your body.
Know Your Stressors
Some people seem to have little to no stress at all. Some things that may be overwhelming for some women don’t affect others. We can’t get rid of stress entirely, but we can learn strategies that help us cope. Knowing your stressors helps you prevent them from derailing your day.
These are some of the things that often increase the stress levels of breastfeeding mothers.
When you’re a first-time mother, you may feel self-conscious or anxious about exposing your breasts. This can lead to stress! If you have visitors over, you might be too anxious to feed your baby. These thoughts can lead to even more worrying when you feed your child late, or when you have to step out to breastfeed in private.
Over time, this concern about privacy will subside. You’ll soon find your rhythm and be more comfortable breastfeeding outside your comfort zone.
In addition to the fear of breastfeeding in public, you may be lacking confidence. You may think that your breast size, diet, sleep or work schedule is affecting your ability to breastfeed. These are legitimate concerns! Ones that you should freely share and process with a nurturing support group. Talk it over at Casa Natal’s New Mom’s Group or in our Breastfeeding 101 classes.
You’ve just given birth, and now you’re taking care of a newborn. There are no off days or breaks. And you’ve got all the other responsibilities in your life to tend to. Yes, it is absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Experienced parents will tell you to try and sleep when your baby is sleeping and put off other housework that isn’t urgent. Don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand!
Dealing With Criticism
It’s astonishing how there are still people giving out harsh comments and unfounded opinions about breastfeeding. Unsolicited advice and unwanted criticism can cause stress and make you second guess your progress. Focus on what you know about breastfeeding and why you’ve made this informed decision.
Social Media’s Standards
As if the critics aren’t enough, we also have social media creating impossible standards for every mom to live up to. There is so much pressure for parents to be perfect and curate on social media. Remember that all these posts are just a snapshot and many of these are not the reality. If you are feeling some pressure, it’s best to tune out of social media for now. Or you can also set your feed to be populated by amazing accounts that encourage and empower parents.
If you are not breastfeeding but know someone who is, we hope that you extend as much kindness, support, and compassion for them. No matter how well-meaning you are, you might cause them to feel guilt or shame. To all our wonderful parents, we all have our own journeys and experiences. Make it your own!