A UNM provider helping a mother breastfeed
By Lisa Bishop, CNM

3 Tips for Lower Stress and Better Breastfeeding

Stress can directly affect breastfeeding. Take these actions to lower your stress and make feeding time more positive for you and your baby.

Breastfeeding is a great bonding opportunity for new moms and their babies, and it is healthy for both of you. But being a new mom can be stressful—and the stress you experience from everyday life can make it harder to breastfeed.

Stress can directly affect breastfeeding by:

  • Lowering the amount of breastmilk available
  • Reducing the breastmilk’s quality
  • Making you feel impatient or tense while trying to nurse

We encourage new moms to breastfeed their baby if it is safe and comfortable to do so. Our lactation team was the first hospital in Albuquerque to earn a Baby-Friendly designation. That means we follow certain steps to help new moms succeed in breastfeeding if they choose to do so.

The World Health Administration (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, when possible. For your baby, it lowers risks of allergies and respiratory infections. For women, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast cancer and heart disease.

Managing stress in your life can help you be more successful at breastfeeding. Try these three tips to reduce stress for better breastfeeding.

1. Figure Out What Stresses You Out

New moms experience many types of stress before and after having a baby. For example, many new parents may feel stressed about:

  • Breastfeeding
  • Changes in family relationships
  • Keeping up with housework
  • Parenting
  • Finances
  • Going back to work

Hormone changes and not getting enough sleep can also make you feel stressed out. While you can’t remove all stress from your life, you can address at least one or two stressors. For example, it’s OK to put off housework for a bit to get some extra rest.

See a counselor, talk your OBGYN or midwife if you have parenting questions or concerns. They can also recommend helpful community resources. Or if you are feeling anxious about breastfeeding, meet with one of our lactation consultants or midwives.

Be gentle with yourself. New moms often want to do everything themselves, but that is a quick route to burnout. Plan time for breaks. If help is available, accept it.

Make a list of items you most would like help with. Although family or friends can’t breastfeed for you, they can help with a variety of household tasks such as cleaning, cooking, laundry and errands. Letting them help allows them to feel involved and gives you an important opportunity to recover and recharge.

Related Reading: Answers to 5 Common Questions About Breastfeeding

Learning to breastfeed your baby takes practice and patience. It's normal to have questions, whether you’re a first-time or veteran mom.

2. De-stress Your Day

It doesn’t matter what you do to de-stress if you find it calming and it is safe and healthy. Engaging in an activity that makes you happy helps you relax. It’s a great way to give your mind a break from what is causing your stress.

If you are stressed about breastfeeding, try these tips:

  • Follow your baby’s cues: If your baby is hungry, it’s time for a feeding. Some possible signs your baby might be hungry are your baby is sucking on its fists, opening and closing its mouth or smacking its lips repeatedly, appearing extra alert or waking up restless.
  • Talk with other moms: Chances are, many feel like you do. It can help to know you’re not alone with what you are going through.
  • Try breastfeeding in a different room or a favorite chair: Sometimes a small change in your surroundings can help you feel more comfortable.
  • Work with a lactation consultant or midwife: They can answer your questions about breastfeeding or pumping.

Helpful ways to de-stress overall may include:

  • Get outside and go for a walk
  • Read a book, or watch a favorite movie or tv show
  • Take a warm bath
  • Try yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises

Related Reading: 9 Tips for Taking Care of Yourself After Birth

Here a few steps to follow to take care of yourself as you adjust to life with a new baby

3. Try Pumping or Supplement with Formula

Pumping your breastmilk can supplement or replace breastfeeding. Your baby will get the nutritional benefits of breastmilk without feeding them at the breast. This allows other people to help feed the baby and you don’t have to be available for feedings 24/7.

To increase milk supply naturally, sometimes new moms find it helpful to pump a little extra with each feeding. A breast pump that allows a mom to pump both breasts at the same time can result in twice the breastmilk pumped and save time. This provides an extra supply on hand in case you run low certain days. You can safely store breastmilk up to six months in the freezer.

While breastfeeding is ideal, remember that it’s not the only way to feed your baby. Supplementing with formula is another healthy solution to increase your baby’s food supply. If you decide to feed your baby with formula, that does not mean you failed as a parent. Everyone’s situation is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

We will do all we can to help lower your stress and make breastfeeding a positive experience for you and your baby. Whether you decide to breastfeed, pump, or bottle feed with formula, our women’s health providers are here for you.

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Categories: Women's Health