Stress is the #1 killer of breastmilk supply. The rise of certain hormonal levels such as cortisol (which is your body’s main stress hormone that controls your mood, motivation and fear) can dramatically reduce your milk supply.
While breastfeeding is important, mental health is key to properly caring for your baby. Stress can affect breastfeeding in two ways:
- Your milk supply and
- the contents of your milk.
Studies have found that breastfed babies have approximately 40 percent more cortisol in their systems than formula-fed babies, suggesting that the cortisol found in breastmilk is responsible for this increase. Called “secondhand cortisol,” the hormone enters the baby’s intestinal tract and prompts neurotransmitter signals that go to the brain, affecting the areas that regulate emotion. Though long-term effects of secondhand cortisol in nursing infants are unknown, a study from researchers at Arizona State University found that higher levels of cortisol corresponded to babies who easily cried or became agitated when placed in unfamiliar situations.
Decreasing your stress levels is beneficial for both you and your baby. Try reducing stress by:
- Exercise releases endorphins that can increase your happiness levels and help you to better deal with stress. Finding a mom&baby fitness class is a great way to exercise while bonding with your bundle of joy.
- Practice deep-breathing techniques or try taking a Yoga/Pilates class two to three times a week. Virgin Active offers great Yoga or Pilates classes while having a day care option where they look after your baby for up to two hours.
- Get out of the house and meet up with a co-mom friend to talk.
- Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to do something you enjoy, such as reading a book, taking a bath in YML Healing Mama Calm Magnesium Bath Salt with a glass of wine or just taking 20minutes while scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram while watching your favourite series.
- Get as much sleep as possible.
Oxytocin is a hormone that is released when you breastfeed and stress can slow the release of oxytcin into the bloodstream. If you have a low breastmilk supply due to stress then relaxation is key.