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Breastfeeding can be an important part of a baby’s development, providing essential nutrients and antibodies to help fight infections and diseases. However, the experience of breastfeeding can be difficult for many mothers, and it’s important to understand the key factors that can impact milk supply. A mother’s mental health, lifestyle choices, and breastfeeding techniques can sometimes make or break their breastfeeding journey.
Mental health plays a crucial role in breastfeeding success. Stress and anxiety can have a negative impact on milk production, as the hormones released during stressful situations can inhibit the production of oxytocin, a hormone essential to milk letdown. Depression can also affect a mother’s ability to breastfeed, as it can lead to a lack of motivation and difficulty bonding with the baby (2).
One study published in the International Breastfeeding Journal found that postpartum depression was associated with lower rates of breastfeeding initiation and shorter duration of exclusive breastfeeding. The study concluded that treating postpartum depression could be an effective way to increase breastfeeding rates.
Another study published in the Journal of Human Lactation found that women with anxiety and depression during pregnancy were more likely to have difficulty breastfeeding and were less likely to breastfeed exclusively.
It’s so important to prioritize self-care and seek support from loved ones. Try to engage in stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises can be beneficial. If things get overwhelming, consider talking to a therapist or counselor who can provide emotional support and coping mechanisms. Coping mechanisms are crucial in the early weeks of postpartum.
It’s important to prioritize your mental health and make decisions for yourself based on what is going to help you be the best mom you can be for your children. There are plenty of different options on how you can feed your baby. A fed baby is a happy baby.
Healthy lifestyle choices can also impact milk supply. Adequate hydration is essential, as dehydration can decrease milk production. Eating a balanced diet that includes protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables can also help support milk production. It’s important to avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption, as they can dehydrate the body and have negative effects on milk supply.
Consuming a well-balanced and nutritious diet can help maintain a healthy milk supply. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that breastfeeding mothers who followed a healthy diet had higher levels of prolactin, a hormone that stimulates milk production (9). Additionally, low calorie and restrictive diets can negatively impact milk supply (10).
Adequate hydration is important for both milk production and maternal health. A study published in the Journal of Human Lactation found that drinking less than 750 ml of fluid per day was associated with a decrease in milk supply. I love my iron flask water bottle. It holds 40oz of water, so in the early weeks of breastfeeding when I was glued to my baby all day I could stay hydrated while she cluster fed and contact napped.
Moderate exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on breastfeeding supply. A study published in the Journal of Human Lactation found that mothers who engaged in moderate exercise had higher milk production compared to sedentary mothers (12).
Alcohol and caffeine
Consuming alcohol and caffeine in moderation is generally considered safe while breastfeeding. However, excessive consumption can negatively impact milk supply. A study published in the Journal of Caffeine Research found that consuming more than 300 mg of caffeine per day was associated with a decrease in milk production. (14)
Proper breastfeeding techniques are also crucial for a successful breastfeeding journey. Ensuring the baby is latching on correctly can help stimulate milk production and prevent discomfort for the mother. Seeking guidance from a lactation consultant that you trust or using breastfeeding support groups can provide valuable information on proper breastfeeding techniques and problem-solving strategies.
A successful breastfeeding journey relies on mental health, healthy lifestyle choices, and proper breastfeeding techniques. Prioritizing self-care, seeking support, staying hydrated, and maintaining a balanced diet can all help support milk production and lead to a positive breastfeeding experience for both you and your baby. Breastfeeding is NOT easy, but if you want to breastfeed, you can do it!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding. (2021, February 16). https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/index.html
- National Institute of Mental Health. Postpartum Depression Facts. (2020, July). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/index.shtml
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Breastfeeding. (2021, April 1). https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding
- Dennis, C.L., McQueen, K. (2009). The relationship between infant-feeding outcomes and postpartum depression: A qualitative systematic review. International Breastfeeding Journal, 4(1), 1-16.
- McCarter-Spaulding, D.E., Gore, R. (2011). Breastfeeding self-efficacy in women of African descent. Journal of Human Lactation, 27(1), 34-43.
- Mezzacappa, E.S., Kelsey, R.M., Katkin, E.S. (2005). Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and maternal autonomic responses to stress. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 58(4), 351-365.
- Nommsen-Rivers, L.A., Chantry, C.J., Cohen, R.J., Dewey, K.G. (2010). Comfort with the idea of formula feeding among low-income urban pregnant women: The role of breastfeeding knowledge and attitudes. Journal of Human Lactation, 26(3), 235-241.
- Schwarz, E.B., Ray, R.M., Stuebe, A.M., Allison, M.A., Ness, R.B., Freiberg, M.S., Cauley, J.A. (2010). Duration of lactation and risk factors for maternal cardiovascular disease. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 116(2 Pt 1), 251-257.
- Prentice, P., & Schoemaker, A. (2016). The lactating woman: considerations for the dietitian. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(8), 1314-1321.
- Dewey, K. G. (1994). Maternal and fetal stress are associated with impaired lactogenesis in humans. The Journal of nutrition, 124(8 Suppl), 1060S-1068S.
- Jensen, D., Wallace, S., & Kelsay, P. (1999). Lactation performance following dehydration and rehydration of moderate duration. Journal of human lactation, 15(3), 209-213.
- Lovelady, C. A., Garner, K. E., Moreno, K. L., Williams, J. P., & the SHINE Trial Study Group. (2011). The effect of weight loss in overweight, lactating women on the growth of their infants. New England Journal of Medicine, 364(21), 1991-2000.
- Lovelady, C. A., & West, D. G. (2012). Caffeine in human milk: implications for breastfeeding mothers and infants. Journal of caffeine research, 2(2), 42-48.
- Polańska, K., Hanke, W., Sobala, W., & Trzcinka-Ochocka, M. (2015). Environmental tobacco smoke exposure and breastfeeding duration. Environmental research, 137, 226-231.