Breastfeeding is a great way to give your child the nutrients they need during their early stages of development. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. Producing breastmilk and making it available involves the brain’s pituitary gland, nervous system, lymphatic system, and local muscles. Lactation is not an isolated function. The health of other systems that seem unrelated can affect and be affected by lactation and breastfeeding. Recent research has found that stress hormones and the depression rates are lower in breastfeeding mothers compared to women who are not breastfeeding.
One way to improve your ability to provide breastmilk is to manage your stress levels. Don’t hesitate to accept help from friends and family after the baby arrives – it’s a huge adjustment and that extra support goes a long way. A key component to successful breastfeeding is to relieve tense muscles in the shoulders, chest, and upper back. Most people tend to carry their stress behind the shoulder joints, above the shoulder blade and towards the base of the neck. To relieve this tension, have someone thumb over this area applying light pressure. To encourage the lymphatic flow, apply light finger pressure along your ribs just below each breast, starting at the center where your upper abdomen and chest meet, and work your way to your sides just below your armpit.
Deep breathing can not only ensure problem-free breastfeeding, but it can also encourage the recovery of your body. This can be done while breastfeeding: get settled in a comfortable position with good posture; with each slow breath, inflate and deflate your lower abdomen below your bellybutton; as you do this you can just imagine the natural hormone oxytocin flowing through you: your uterus and abdominal ligaments reestablish their strength, you heart rate and blood pressure slow down, and your mood lightens as you fall in love with the little one you’re caring so well for.
It can take time to get the hang of breastfeeding. If you’re struggling, remember there are lots of great resources out there to offer guidance and support.