Last Updated on February 8, 2023 by Jada Glover
Every mother loves being a mom but no mom will say that parenting is easy. It does not matter if you are a new mama or it is your third or fourth experience, you will feel tired, drained, and anxious for many reasons.
Because of this stress, you may see a decrease in your breast milk supply if you don’t find time to take care of yourself!
In this post I am sharing whether stress can affect your breast milk supply and how to relieve the stress so you can go back to being the milk-making mama that you were made to be!
Things That Cause Stress For New Moms
You could be worried because you have to go back to work and leave your newborn behind. Maybe you haven’t slept in four days. Or, maybe you have so many chores to do but your newborn wants all your attention.
Breastfeeding itself also brings on a lot of stress. You could be wondering if your baby is getting enough breast milk. If your baby is nursing frequently (at least 8-12 times in a 24-hour period) and gaining weight, your baby is likely thriving and you’re producing plenty of milk.
You may also be struggling with the changes in your own body after having a baby. Just remember, it took you 9 months to grow a baby.
Start with eating healthy foods and moving your body gently when you’re ready. You’ll likely see improvements in your energy and confidence.
Your stressful thoughts not only affect your mental health but have an impact on your breast milk, which can lead to a decrease in supply.
Can Stress Affect Milk Supply?
Yes, stress can affect milk supply. Your body will respond to stress in different ways. For some moms, they may be producing enough, but stress is affecting their oxytocin levels which may inhibit for the milk letdown to occur. As a result, your supply could diminish if you’re unable to remove milk from your breasts through nursing at the breast or pumping.
Does Depression Affect Breast Milk?
Depression may be caused by other factors that are playing a role in how your body is feeling. Depression can have an indirect affect in both quantity and quality of breastmilk produced. The levels of various fats in your breast milk may be affected by a lack of those particular fats in your diet.
It is especially important to include or add Omega 3s in your diet. A western diet typically includes plenty of Omega 6s, but not always enough Omega 3s. These are important for hormone regulation especially in postpartum women. Always remember, though, no matter what your diet is, breast milk is always superior to any artificial milk substitute (formula).
If you are depressed, this may also affect your body’s ability to release milk from your breasts. by a reduction in oxytocin levels. Oxytocin helps our bodies have a “letdown” of milk or release the milk from our breasts. This is an important part of breastfeeding. If we make the milk, we need the ability to release it also. If our oxytocin levels are negatively affected by stress, our bodies may not be able to release milk affectively. This can also lead to engorgement.
How Does Stress Affect Breast Milk?
When you are stressed your body will automatically start producing stress hormones to help you deal with the stressful situation. These hormones and other factors, together, not only affect your breast milk quality, but they also affect your breast milk quantity.
Breast Milk Quality
Stress does not have a huge impact on your milk quality. But studies show that stressed women transfer their stress hormone (cortisol) to their baby through their milk.
There is not a lot of research on the issues related to the effect of this stress hormone on the baby, but we do know it can cause short-term and long-term health effects. Some studies show that a baby may get slightly distressed which could lead to irritability, poor milk transfer, or poor sleep habits.
Breast Milk Quantity
Stress affects your breast milk supply. It will lower your breast milk supply directly and indirectly. If you are experiencing high levels of stress while breastfeeding, you may experience a difficult time with your milk “letting down.”
This can cause a decrease in your milk supply. High levels of stress long-term in everyday life can also lead to weaning your baby early.
On the bright side, breastfeeding can help to lower your stress. The hormones that your body releases when you breastfeed, like oxytocin, promote relaxation and a sense of love and bonding.
When you are stressed, chances are you will not take care of your body’s needs. You may not eat healthy or drink plenty of water to help your body produce enough milk for your baby.
Another possibility is you will not have time to feed your baby properly. The more you let your baby feed, the more milk your body will produce. So, if your baby is not breastfeeding enough then chances are you will face a low breast milk supply.
Tips To Reduce Stress & Improve Milk Supply
The good news is there are ways that you can reduce new mom stress, so you can enjoy motherhood more.
No one can deny the benefits of exercise. If you are stressed because you feel overwhelmed and trying to juggle life, then make time to release your stress through regular exercise.
You can go to the gym or to a park and enjoy the beautiful scenery and fresh air. You can also try taking your baby with you.
This way you will be able to keep an eye on your baby as well. If you are interested in joining exercise classes, there are meet-up groups and special fitness groups that are specially designed for new moms.
Do What You Love
Another way to release stress is to do what you love to do. It could be anything from painting your newborn’s portrait, to reading your favorite novel.
When you see that your baby is sleeping, take advantage of that time. Watch the movie that you’ve been wanting to watch. Listen to music that you find relaxing.
Sleep as Much as You Can
Sleep is a blessing that gives our body time to heal. Your baby may wake you up often to nurse, but try to get as much sleep as you can by side-lying to nurse and nap when your baby naps.
Sleep whenever your baby sleeps. You can talk to your partner about watching your baby while you take a nap if you’re in need of some rest.
The more sleep you get, the more your mind and body will be able to recover from the stress. Sleep will give you the energy to get through the day. Sleep will help decrease the affects of stress on your breast milk supply.
Eat Good to Feel Good
What and how we eat determines how we feel. Develop healthy eating habits. Eating well will provide your body with the right amount of nutrients it needs to stay active and energetic to deal with mom stress.
You will be confident that you are providing enough nutrients to your newborn through plenty of milk that your body will produce if you feed it well. Drink plenty of water and keep your body hydrated.
If you want to know how to eat well during breastfeeding, check out my breastfeeding nutrition programs.
Seek Help from Those Who Care
Remember, you’re not alone in this new venture of motherhood. You have family, friends, and a support system who loves and cares about you!
There are likely many experienced moms in your family who have gone through the same situation. You can talk to them and take their useful advice (just remember that you know your baby best, so follow your instincts and be aware of “baby trainers”).
You can also call your sibling or close friend to provide you a helping hand. Another great source of help is finding a lactation consultant (like me!).
If you are stressed because you are facing a problem related to a low milk supply, then reach check out my guide on increasing milk supply fast.
Can stress affect milk supply? Yes it can!
Being a mama is not an easy job but you will adapt and get stronger with time. Every time stressful and unwanted thoughts enter your mind, remind yourself that you are your baby’s superhero.
You cannot give up because you have to be there for your baby. Remember that you are not alone in having those feelings, but stress can affect and decrease your breast milk supply directly and indirectly. So give yourself grace and time.
You will get accustomed to all the new things happening in life and you’ll excel! Just like a new job, you have to learn the ropes, and then you can hit the ground running.
Motherhood is similar, but always be ready for the curveballs that your baby may throw at you. That’s why it’s important to establish routines that will help you relieve your stress during difficult times.