Within an hour after arriving into the world, your little one makes it known – they are hungry! For some mother-baby duos, feeding comes easily and seamlessly but for 67% of new moms, it’s just the start of one of the biggest emotional rollercoaster rides they’ll face postpartum. And that’s not surprising.
Research shows that there are strong connections between breastfeeding outcomes and stress. This information is not to add to any feelings of blame but the opposite! We hope you take it as a reminder to prioritize yourself.
So what can we do to support our mental health and emotional selves when it comes to feeding our baby? Here are six important steps:
1. Learn Your Feeding Options
You can learn about feeding options during pregnancy and adjust postpartum (have a Plan A, B… and C). Research suggests that the risk of developing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders increases when expectations don’t meet reality, i.e. real life doesn’t go according to plan. This is especially true when it comes to our expectations for how we feed our babies. That’s why we encourage you to be prepared for alternatives to your ideal feeding scenario. Educate yourself on the basics of breastfeeding, pumping, and formula feeding, and have the supplies in place for each. Remember, there are many healthy ways to feed your baby, and fed is best.
2. Do Research & Find Lactation Support
If you’re currently pregnant, try to do some research during pregnancy about lactation support – including courses and/or resources at your hospital. While we all hope that our feeding journey goes smoothly, bumps happen, especially in the first few days and weeks postpartum as milk supply is getting established and the baby is learning to eat. The only thing worse than having a hungry baby is not having a way to feed them quickly. Knowing where you can get support can help! Even meeting with a lactation consultant prior to birth or taking courses online, can be helpful as you begin to think about a feeding and/or pumping schedule that works best for you.
3. Nurse or Pump for an Oxytocin Boost
FYI: Pumping still gives you the feel-good hormones. Research shows that oxytocin (the hormone produced by the hypothalamus of your brain & elevates your mood) is still released from the brain during pumping let-down. So if nursing isn’t in your feeding playbook, you can still reap this benefit during a pumping session.
4. Practice Your Breathwork
Try to slow down and breathe deeply. When you’re in fight or flight mode (i.e. anxious & stressed), all non-essential body functions (such as producing milk) are dampened so that you can survive. Research suggests that calming the sympathetic nervous system can amplify your milk production. The easiest way to do that is through breathwork. There are loads of methods out there, but the guiding principle is to have your exhalations be longer than your inhalations. To start, do a 4-count breath in and an 8-count breath out during your pumping or feeding session to support your flow.
5. Visualize Success
Consider visualizing your success. The power of visualization can help you overcome difficult moments and obstacles that stand in your way. Being intentionally mindful can help you to manifest your goals. If you’d like more support in visualizing success through proven practices, check out mindfulness exercises in the Canopie app.
6. Know You're Supported
Finally, remember that no matter what happens, you are not alone. However your feeding journey unfolds, you’re doing an amazing job. No matter how you choose to feed your child (whether it's breastfeeding, pumping, or formula feeding), it does not define you as a mother or as a human. While it seems like a momentous decision, it’s one of many thousands of decisions you’re going to make as a parent in the coming years.