Campaigns to increase the rate of breast-feeding have been highly successful in recent years with about three-quarters of American mothers now breast feeding, compared with less than two-thirds in 2000. Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend six months of exclusive breast-feeding for all infants stating that breast milk is superior to infant formulas. There is certainly no shortage of advice on breastfeeding and in particular, what you need to do to produce optimal amounts of milk – from your diet to sleep habits to how your baby latches on and the frequency of feedings. But what if you do everything “right,” and still don’t produce enough milk? Could stress be the culprit?
According to the American Institute of Stress, 44 percent of Americans are more stressed than they were 5 years ago. No doubt you fall into this category. On top of the lack of sleep, and the added responsibility of caring for your new baby, your body has been traumatized by labor, the house still needs to be cleaned, the bills to be paid and perhaps other children to be cared for.
Meanwhile, there is more and more anecdotal evidence that moms that are more calm and relaxed produce more breast milk. Herein lays the problem. Being a new mom is inherently stressful. You are likely stressed about producing enough milk. And if stress is linked to inadequate milk production, then simply the act of being a mom to a newborn puts you at risk. What is one to do?
After perusing dozens of mommy forums and based on the many conversations with Body After Baby’s community of moms, we thought it would be helpful to share some of the top tips other moms are doing to keep their stress levels down and potentially increase milk production.
The chores can wait
We all like a clean house, but between seemingly endless feedings, diaper changes, and, of course, cuddle time, doing even the simplest of chores can be impossible. Do what you can, but don’t let household duties add to your stress level. Remind yourself that the dirty dishes aren’t going anywhere, but the precious time you have with your baby come and go in a flash.
Yes, we know that disposable anything is so not PC (politically correct). But right now, your goal is to get through the day with minimal stress. And sometimes that means putting your tree hugging ways aside. Take advantage of the convenience of disposables – from paper plates, to cups and silverware to diapers. Remind yourself that you can still recycle the disposables. Remember, this is a temporary phase, and before you know it, you will once again have time to save mother earth.
Don’t skip meals – order in if you have to
You have to eat, but sometimes you are just too exhausted to cook. The next time this happens, opt for takeout. Remind yourself that take out does not have to be unhealthy. These days there are more and more healthy choices. Most Chinese food restaurants have healthy alternatives on their menu and many pizza joints now offer wheat crust.
Take time off
If work stress is the cause of 10 percent strokes, then it is pretty reasonable to assume that work stress will impact your breast milk production. If you can afford to do so, take as much time off as you can. Take advantage of paid disability and the Family Leave Act, which allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. Some states, like California will even compensate moms beyond the standard six weeks of disability under the Paid Family Leave Act. Remind yourself that work will always be there, but once your milk dries up, your days of breastfeeding your baby are over.
Just say no
Rightfully so, your friends and extended family want to meet your new bundle of joy. We are not talking about your parents, siblings or friends that are more like immediate family, but those that despite their best efforts to be helpful make you feel obligated to entertain. The first six weeks with your newborn are both wonderful and extremely intense so don’t feel guilty about delaying visits until you are ready. If you must have visitors during this exhausting period, keep the visits short and do it between meals so you don’t feel the need to feed them. Remind yourself that your true friends and family will understand.
Ask for help
Once you have a child, the saying “it takes a village” resonates more than ever. Ask for help. If someone wants to bring you food, let them. If your sister or dear friend offers to change a dirty diaper or hold your baby while you shower, let her. Remind yourself that people like to help so let them and that every bit helps. One less diaper to change or having a chance to shower will help you be more relaxed.
Heal your body
Even the easiest of labors is traumatic to your body. It is a well-known fact that physical pain and stress go hand in hand. While recovering from labor takes time, beyond rest and a healthy lifestyle, there are steps that jump start that process. Consider using a postpartum belly band or a post C-section belly band to speed-up your recovery. These popular post-pregnancy support garments provide compression and structure to stabilize your midsection, hips, and lower back. They also improve posture, increase circulation and reduce swelling – all things that help the body heal faster and also have an immediate impact on milk flow. C-section moms tend to be more sore in the nursing position, so these belts are particularly useful. Remind yourself that recovery is your main goal in the first six weeks following child birth. If you decide that a postpartum wrap is for you, choose a tummy support garment that is both comfortable and functional. Also, be sure to look for an integrated garment that supports all the major areas impacted by pregnancy and childbirth -- from the waist, stomach, hips, butt, back, and pelvis -- eliminating the need to purchase multiple body-specific garments.
Exercising is known to help release endorphins, the happy hormones. We know it sounds counter-intuitive, but even a 10-20 minute walk can help you feel refreshed and less stressed. Reminder yourself that not only will exercise help you feel happier, it will make you look better, which in turn will make you feel even happier.
Your turn. We’d like to hear from you. What tips can you recommend to lower stress for nursing moms?
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