Can stress decrease my breast milk supply?

Ask Anne…

Mother breastfeeding her babyQuestion: I have been under a lot of stress lately and no mater what I do, I’m still depressed. I am afraid that my milk will dry up before I am ready to stop breastfeeding my daughter.  I’m looking for ways to maintain my milk supply, and I was wondering if Fenugreek would help.  My daughter is only 24 days old and I feel as though I won’t make it much longer. Can stress decrease my breast milk supply?

Answer: I don’t think it’s possible for any mother to be stress free, ever. I have personally nursed through a divorce, loss of a job, deaths in the family, illness, etc.

Milk supply has a lot more to do with stimulation and anatomy than it does with stress. Women world wide breastfeed their babies even in times of war, famine, and natural disaster. If mother’s breast milk just dried up due to stress, then practically all babies would be formula fed.

If your supply is low, you need to figure out why (other than the stress issues) and take steps to remedy the problem.

There are many causes of low milk supply, including yeast infections, tongue-tie, jaundice, maternal medication, illness in the baby, flat or inverted nipples, breast infections, and more.

Solutions might include pumping, relaxation techniques, breast compression and massage, prescription medications, herbal remedies, or even supplementing with formula. Whatever it takes, the many benefits of breastfeeding make it worth the effort.

I like to think of the mom’s first months with a new baby as being in the “survival mode”. This means that whatever you have to do to get through the day, whether it is using a swing, a sling, a pacifier, a babysitter, a glass of wine, even a bottle of formula, it’s okay. Take it one day at a time, and try not to get overwhelmed by it all. It gets easier with time.

The first few weeks of life with a newborn are challenging, especially when you’re worried about your milk supply. The most important thing is to make sure your baby is getting enough milk and gaining weight, while decreasing your stress level as much as possible.

For specific advice on how to increase your supply (including information about Fenugreek) read the article Increasing Your Milk Supply.

I hope you find a way to decrease your stress level. If you need help with depression, please contact your health care provider. Many medications used to treat anxiety and depression are safe to take while breastfeeding.

Anne Smith, IBCLC
Breastfeeding Basics

About Anne Smith, IBCLC

As the mother of six wonderful breastfed children, three perfect breastfed grand babies, and an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) with over twenty-five years experience in lactation counseling, I can offer you professional support, as well as information and advice based on my personal experiences over the years.

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One comment

  1. You said you nursed through a divorce. How? Lol. I feel my whole world is crashing down and I could use any advice you got. My son is 28 mos and still loves to nurse, as well as I don’t want to quit either. Should I start pumping again? I am battling the fear my son will he taken from me which I know is probably affecting supply….

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