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Breastfeeding is an essential part of a new mother’s routine. Breast milk is extremely healthy for a newborn and is of extreme importance for the baby’s development. However, many new mothers seem to experience a lot of stress around the time they start to breastfeed.
We talked to Dr Madhu Goel, associate director, Obstetrics and Gynecology at Fortis LaFemme, New Delhi to understand how stress can affect breastfeeding. “New mothers can go through stress on multiple accounts. It can range from work-related stress to stress induced by pregnancy procedures as well as confusion about what would be best for the baby,” she explains.
So, how can stress affect breastfeeding?
According to Dr. Goel there are two crucial ways in which stress affects breast milk. For one, it reduces the quantity. And secondly, it deteriorates the quality of the milk. Basically, this happens because of secretion of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
“When you’re stressed and your body releases stress hormones, the level of a happy hormone known as oxytocin goes down. This leads to lower the quantity of milk and may not meet the needs of your baby. These hormones aren’t just going to affect your body but will also affect the quality of milk, making it less nutritious for the baby,” she said.
This makes it extremely important for new mothers to manage stress and make sure that the milk they feed to their baby is healthy. So here are certain things you can do to manage your stress:
1. Find the stressors
Well, finding the root cause is the first step towards fixing any situation. For most mothers, there’s a lot of anxiety surrounding breastfeeding because they’re not as aware of how to go about it. This may eventually become a major cause of stress.
Dr. Goel suggests that in such situations you must consult a lactation counselor who can help you find the answers to all your doubts and questions related to breastfeeding.
2. Try to resolve relationship issues with your partner, if any
Having a baby can change a lot for a couple. If you and your partner have been experiencing differences over issues such as parenting style, how to take care of the baby, and other aspects of being new parents, it is best to communicate and straighten things out. If needed, a visit to a therapist for further guidance would provide much help.
3. Tackle your competitive feelings
Dr. Goel says that a lot of times, we hear our friends talking about their experiences and start comparing ourselves and our experiences with them. This tends to stress us out because we end up thinking we’re doing something wrong. However, it is very important to understand that each mom and each baby is unique. Taking advice from experienced peers is good but you will have to set up your own routine which is the most suitable for you and your baby.