All Blogs | Stress and Low Breast Milk Supply: Things to Know

All Blogs | Stress and Low Breast Milk Supply: Things to Know

Stress and Low Breast Milk Supply: Things to Know

Navigating the endless sleepless nights that even the strongest coffee fails to remedy. Squeezing in a much-needed workout, only to be abruptly interrupted by an early wake-up call from a nap. Dealing with yet another diaper blowout, and it's not even noon. As a new mom, these challenges become a part of your daily routine. Just as you start to find your stride, life's everyday stressors come knocking, threatening to throw you off course. Stress, no matter how big or small, can affect the body. And if the stress isn’t handled appropriately as a breastfeeding mother, it could directly affect milk supply and affect breastfeeding your baby. Stress is actually one of the most significant contributors to low breast milk supply. Understanding the relationship between stress and breast milk supply is crucial for addressing the issue effectively and ensuring a successful breastfeeding experience. In this blog, we’ll explore how stress can affect breastfeeding and breastmilk supply and even offer some ways you can de-stress so you can focus on nurturing your little one.

How Does Stress Affect Breastfeeding?

When you experience stress, your body responds by releasing hormones such as cortisol, commonly known as the "stress hormone." These hormones are part of your body's natural response to perceived threats or challenges. However, when it becomes chronic stress or intense stress, it can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance required for milk production and letdown of breast milk.

So, how does stress affect breastfeeding? Stress can negatively affect your milk supply in several ways. Firstly, the release of stress hormones can interfere with the hormones responsible for milk production and letdown, such as prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates milk production, while oxytocin is responsible for milk letdown, the process by which breast milk is released from the breast ducts. When stress hormones disrupt the production and release of these crucial hormones, it can affect your milk supply by leading to a decrease in breast milk volume and difficulties with milk letdown.

In addition to hormonal disruption, stress can also impact breastfeeding routines and patterns. When you are stressed, you may find it challenging to establish and maintain a consistent breastfeeding schedule. And we both know how valuable a breastfeeding schedule can be! This can result in decreased breastfeeding frequency and duration, which can further contribute to a decrease in breast milk supply. Furthermore, increased stress can affect the overall breastfeeding experience, making it more challenging for both you and your baby to relax and enjoy the bonding time.

It's important to note that occasional or short-term stress is a normal part of life and typically does not have a significant impact on milk supply. When postpartum stress becomes chronic or intense, it can have a cumulative effect and lead to more substantial disruptions in lactation. Every woman's response to stress is unique, and some may be more sensitive to its impact on milk production than others. Therefore, it's essential to pay attention to your individual stress levels and take proactive steps to manage them. Managing stress is crucial not only for maintaining an adequate milk supply but also for your overall well-being.

How Your Body Benefits From De-Stressing

The demands of caring for a newborn, sleep deprivation, and adjusting to a new routine can take a toll on your well-being. However, actively de-stressing can have a profound impact on your breast milk production, affect your milk supply, and improve your overall breastfeeding journey.

By actively de-stressing, you create a nurturing environment for optimal breast milk production. When you prioritize self-care and stress reduction, you support hormonal balance and allow your body to function at its best. Here are some ways in which de-stressing can positively affect breastfeeding:

  1. Enhanced Milk SupplyWhen you de-stress, your body can focus on producing and maintaining an adequate milk supply. When you reduce stress hormone levels helping promote hormonal balance, you create an optimal environment for milk synthesis, leading to a more abundant milk supply for your baby's nourishment.
  2. Improved Milk Letdown: As mentioned previously, stress can inhibit the release of oxytocin, which is essential for milk letdown. By de-stressing, you create a relaxed state that promotes the release of oxytocin. This can directly affect milk supply by allowing for the release of milk from the back to the front of the breast optimizing milk flow during breastfeeding sessions.
  3. Enhanced Bonding Experience: Breastfeeding is not just about providing nourishment; it's also a precious opportunity to bond with your baby. When you de-stress, you enter a state of relaxation and presence, allowing you to fully engage in the intimate and nurturing connection with your little one. A calm and serene environment during breastfeeding enhances the bonding experience for both mother and baby.
  4. Positive Emotional Well-Being: De-stressing contributes to your overall emotional well-being, which is vital during the breastfeeding journey. When you prioritize self-care and stress reduction, you may experience reduced feelings of anxiety, frustration, or overwhelm. This positive emotional state can enhance your confidence and enjoyment in breastfeeding, making it a more fulfilling experience for you and your baby. Prioritizing self-care and stress reduction not only positively affects breastfeeding, milk supply, and letdown but also enhances the emotional connection between you and your baby. 

Practical Tips for De-Stressing As a Breastfeeding Mother

Because we know that taking care of yourself is a vital aspect of nurturing and nourishing your little one, we wanted to give you a few practical tips to help you de-stress.

An infographic of ways to destress as a breastfeeding woman

Take Warm Baths

Taking a warm bath has long been recognized as a soothing ritual for relaxation and stress relief. As a breastfeeding mother, incorporating warm baths into your self-care routine can have significant benefits for both your overall well-being and breast milk production.

The warm water of a bath provides a nurturing environment that helps release tension and promotes relaxation. When you immerse yourself in a warm bath, the heat encourages your muscles to relax and eases any physical discomfort you may be experiencing. This physical relaxation extends to your mind to relieve mental stress and allow you to unwind and let go of the day's stresses.

One of the key reasons warm baths are beneficial for breastfeeding mothers is their ability to reduce stress levels. When you immerse yourself in warm water, the sensory experience triggers a relaxation response in your body. This response helps to counteract the release of stress hormones like cortisol, and promotes the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for milk letdown.

The soothing nature of warm baths not only helps to alleviate stress but also promotes a sense of calm and well-being. When you are in a relaxed state, your body is better able to produce the hormones needed for milk production, such as prolactin. This can contribute to improved breast milk supply and flow during breastfeeding sessions.

Furthermore, warm baths provide an opportunity for uninterrupted solitude and self-care. As a busy breastfeeding mother, it's essential to take moments for yourself, away from the demands of everyday life. A warm bath creates a sanctuary where you can fully focus on your own well-being, allowing you to recharge and replenish both your physical and mental health.

To enhance the de-stressing benefits of warm baths, consider adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to the water. Lavender is known for its calming properties and can further promote relaxation and stress reduction. You can also treat yourself to a refreshing glass of our Milkflow drink mix, made with milk-optimizing herbs in every sip. Our five flavors of Milkflow have specific benefits to help enhance your body with other breastfeeding benefits like electrolytes and energy.

Incorporating warm baths into your routine as a breastfeeding mother not only offers an opportunity to relieve stress and practice self-care but also provides a supportive environment for optimal breast milk production. Soaking in the warm water can help reduce your stress level, stimulate the release of oxytocin, and promote a sense of calmness.

Adjust to Using Dimly Lit Room Lighting

The lighting in your environment can have a profound impact on your mood, stress levels, and overall well-being. When it comes to breastfeeding and supporting breast milk production, creating a dimly lit room can be highly beneficial for de-stressing and promoting a calming atmosphere.

Bright, harsh lighting can be stimulating and may increase feelings of alertness and tension. On the other hand, dimly lit room lighting helps create a tranquil ambiance that promotes relaxation. When you breastfeed in a dimly lit room, it sends a signal to your body and mind that it's time to unwind and focus on the nurturing connection with your baby.

Reducing the intensity of light has a direct impact on your body's stress response. Bright lights can increase the production of stress hormones such as cortisol, while dim lighting has the opposite effect. By lowering the lighting in your breastfeeding space, you can help reduce the release of stress hormones and create a more peaceful environment.

The gentle glow of dimly lit room lighting also helps to soothe your senses. Soft, warm lighting is reminiscent of natural evening light or candlelight, which are inherently calming. This type of lighting encourages relaxation and can help you transition into a more serene state of mind.

Furthermore, dimly lit room lighting helps to minimize distractions and create a focused space for breastfeeding. Harsh, bright lights can draw your attention away from the present moment and hinder the peaceful connection between you and your nursing baby. In a dimly lit room, you can immerse yourself in the quiet, intimate bonding experience, allowing you to fully concentrate on the nourishment you are providing.

To create a dimly lit room for breastfeeding, consider using soft light sources such as table lamps, dimmer switches, or salt lamps. These gentle lighting options can be adjusted to your desired level of brightness, providing the ideal ambiance for relaxation.

By embracing dimly lit room lighting during breastfeeding, you are cultivating a tranquil environment that supports your well-being and breast milk production. The subdued lighting helps reduce your stress level, promotes the release of oxytocin, and fosters a deeper sense of calmness and connection.

Use Music For Relaxation

Music has a remarkable ability to influence our emotions and create a soothing atmosphere. Incorporating soft music into your breastfeeding routine can be a powerful tool for de-stressing and promoting a calm and nurturing environment, ultimately supporting breast milk production.

When you listen to soft, gentle music, it can have a direct impact on your nervous system. Slow-tempo melodies, soothing instrumentals, or nature sounds help lower heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and decrease stress hormone levels. The rhythmic patterns and melodic tones of soft music stimulate the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good hormones, promoting relaxation and a sense of well-being.

The power of music extends beyond the physiological responses in your body. It also has a psychological effect, allowing you to escape from daily stressors and find solace in the moment. Soft music can help shift your focus from external worries to the present, creating a space of tranquility where you can fully engage in the bonding experience of breastfeeding.

Additionally, soft music can mask background noises or distractions, providing a serene auditory environment for you and your nursing baby. This can help create a sense of intimacy and privacy, enhancing the bonding experience and promoting a more relaxed state for both of you.

The rhythm and melody of soft music can also synchronize with your breathing and the natural rhythm of breastfeeding. This synchronization helps to create a calming effect, regulating your heart rate and breathing patterns. As a result, your body enters a more relaxed state, optimizing the release of hormones like oxytocin, which is essential for milk letdown.

When choosing music for relaxation during breastfeeding, opt for calming genres such as classical, instrumental, ambient, or lullabies. Explore different artists, albums, or playlists that resonate with you and create a soothing atmosphere. You may also consider incorporating nature sounds, such as gentle rainfall or ocean waves, for added relaxation.

Remember, the key is to select soft music that speaks to your personal preferences and promotes a sense of tranquility. Allow yourself to fully immerse in the melodic sounds, focusing on the present moment and the beautiful connection between you and your baby.

Incorporating soft music for relaxation during breastfeeding sessions not only aids in stress relief but also supports breast milk production. The calming effect of music helps regulate your body's responses, promoting a relaxed state conducive to optimal lactation. As you create a peaceful auditory environment, you are fostering a nurturing space where you and your nursing baby can bond and thrive together.

Practice Positive Visualization

The mind is a powerful tool that can influence our emotions, perceptions, and even our physical well-being. One technique that harnesses the power of the mind is positive visualization, a practice that involves creating vivid mental images of positive outcomes and experiences. Incorporating positive visualization into your breastfeeding routine can be an effective strategy for de-stressing and can indirectly affect breastmilk production.

Positive visualization allows you to tap into your imagination and create a mental landscape of calmness, abundance, and success. By visualizing yourself in a peaceful setting, nursing your baby with an abundant milk supply, you can evoke positive emotions and reduce stress levels. This practice helps shift your focus from worries and anxieties to a more positive and empowering mindset.

During breastfeeding sessions, take a moment to close your eyes and engage in positive visualization. Imagine yourself in a tranquil garden, a serene beach, or any other peaceful place that resonates with you. Picture yourself comfortably nursing your baby, surrounded by a sense of calm and abundance. Embrace positive thoughts and affirmations related to your breastfeeding journey, such as "I have more than enough milk to nourish my baby," or "Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural process."

Positive visualization has a profound impact on your body's stress response. When you vividly imagine positive outcomes, your brain releases neurotransmitters and hormones that support relaxation and well-being. This includes the release of endorphins, which are natural mood-enhancers and stress relievers. As a result, your body enters a more relaxed state, creating an optimal environment to indirectly affect milk production and letdown.

Moreover, positive visualization helps strengthen the mind-body connection. When you visualize positive breastfeeding experiences, you send powerful signals to your body that reinforce feelings of confidence, joy, and relaxation. These positive emotions can influence hormonal balance, promoting the release of oxytocin and prolactin, essential hormones for milk production.

Incorporating positive visualization into your breastfeeding routine requires practice and consistency. Set aside a few moments each day to engage in this mental exercise, ideally during breastfeeding sessions. You can also incorporate visualization techniques during moments of self-care or relaxation. The more you practice, the more natural and effective it becomes. By harnessing the power of your imagination, you can create a mental landscape that cultivates peace, abundance, and confidence.

Stress and Postpartum Depression

If you are experiencing postpartum depression, it is important to remember that you are not alone, and help is available. Postpartum depression can be a challenging and overwhelming experience, but reaching out for support is a crucial step towards healing and recovery. Consider talking to your healthcare provider, a therapist, or a support group specializing in postpartum mental health. They can provide you with guidance, understanding, and resources to navigate this difficult time. Remember to prioritize self-care, engage in activities that bring you joy, and lean on your support network. With the right support and treatment, you can overcome postpartum depression and find your way back to a place of emotional well-being.

Are You Ready To De-Stress?

A woman meditates while holding her baby in a front sling wrap

De-stressing is a personal journey, and what works for one person may not work for another. It's important to explore different techniques and strategies to find what resonates with you. Whether it's practicing relaxation techniques, engaging in self-care activities, seeking support from loved ones, or incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine, finding ways to de-stress is crucial for your well-being and optimal breast milk production.

Managing stress not only helps regulate the release of stress hormones but also promotes the release of hormones essential for milk production and letdown, such as prolactin and oxytocin. By reducing stress levels, mothers can enhance their milk supply, improve milk flow, and create a more positive emotional state.

If self-care wasn’t already an enticing benefit, de-stressing techniques also support the emotional connection and bonding experience between breastfeeding mothers and their babies. By fostering relaxation, mamas can fully engage in the present moment during breastfeeding, promoting a sense of calmness and deepening the nurturing connection.

Embrace the power of relaxation and stress reduction as you navigate the wonderful world of breastfeeding. Your efforts in managing stress will positively impact your breastmilk production, foster a deeper bond with your baby, and contribute to a more fulfilling and rewarding breastfeeding experience. Remember mama, you are capable, resilient, and deserving of a peaceful and enjoyable breastfeeding journey.