Without exception every Parent that I see for lactation support is struggling with their emotions. And this is understandable, because a whole lot has often been going on before they get to me. . When breastfeeding/chestfeeding isn’t going well then it’s stressful and disheartening, for some it feels devastating. It can feel like you’re unable to do one of the most natural things in the world. Babies need to feed, grow and develop and as parents you feel a huge amount of responsibility for this teeny tiny person that you’ve created.
But what many parents don’t know is that those emotions that have been building up- the stress, anxiety and fear, can directly affect how breastfeeding actually works and how you connect with your baby. Here’s why:
It’s the love hormone that makes us (and our baby) feel all good inside. As well as flowing freely when there’s super-good vibes around it also triggers our milk to flow (called the Milk Ejection Reflex). When we’re stressed or fearful our body starts producing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and the body goes into a survival state, slowing the flow of oxytocin.
When oxytocin flows it works wonders. We relax, our baby relaxes, everyone in the room relaxes! and the milk flows too. So enabling that feel-good hormone, through relaxation is top of the list when it comes to happy breastfeeding.
Deep-rooted feelings about Breastfeeding/chestfeeding
Talking about feeding babies can bring up some pretty strong emotions. You only need to look on social media to see the far reaching views that people have on how (and where) babies should be fed.
As soon as you are born and as you grow up, what you see and hear around you about feeding babies, parenting, breasts and bodies in general, builds a complex picture in your mind of what feeding a baby might or should look like. This can include feelings and beliefs on breasts and breastfeeding some of which you are conscious of but much of which will be buried deeper into your subconscious. Exploring how you feel about
feeding your baby and recognising how experiences may have impacted your beliefs and expectations, can really help you sort through any emotions that you are experiencing.
We also live in a society where breastfeeding isn’t seen very much. Normalising breastfeeding for ourselves, is one of the best ways to feel comfortable and relaxed about feeding our babies. We can do this by visiting breastfeeding groups, seeing friends and their babies or by following breastfeeding accounts on social media.
Following our parenting instincts
There’s a million and one ways to raise a baby. And you’ll probably hear about a good few of them in the early months of Parenthood. We hear them from friends, family, books, the internet and the news. When expecting a baby we might have a really good idea of the sort of parent we want to be. Only for it all to change the second we hold our gorgeous baby in our arms.
Bringing a little bit of mindfulness into our day can help us to connect, not just with our baby but also with the voice inside of us. When we become more relaxed, it’s easier to tune into our own inner wisdom and shut out the expectation of others.
In summary, your brain plays a vital part in your body’s milk making system as well as how you connect with your baby and help them to learn to feed. When learning to breastfeed it’s about having not just the practical help and expert support (which is vital) but also some good tools that you can use to help you relax, get that oxytocin flowing and enjoy your breastfeeding and parenting journey.