Breastfeeding is a natural and wonderful way for mothers to nourish and bond with their babies. But did you know that stress can actually make breastfeeding more difficult? Let’s explore how stress affects breastfeeding and how chiropractic care can help improve the experience for both mom and baby.

How Breastfeeding Works

Breastfeeding starts when a baby creates a vacuum seal around the mother’s nipple. This action triggers the release of a hormone called oxytocin, which helps release milk into the baby’s mouth. Oxytocin is also important for creating a strong bond between mom and baby.

The Impact of Stress on Breastfeeding

When a mother is stressed, it can interfere with breastfeeding. Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. When this system is highly active, it can inhibit the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which are crucial for releasing oxytocin and prolactin—two hormones necessary for milk production and ejection.

Specific Effects of Stress on Breastfeeding

  1. Reduced Oxytocin and Prolactin: Stress can decrease the release of oxytocin and prolactin, making it harder for milk to be produced and released.
  2. Vasoconstriction: Stress can cause the blood vessels around the nipple to constrict, which can also interfere with milk ejection.
  3. Overactivity of Myoepithelial Cells: Stress can cause the cells that help push milk out of the glands to become overactive, disrupting the milk ejection reflex.

Research supports that stress reduces the number of oxytocin pulses during early breastfeeding, making it more challenging to maintain a steady milk supply.

How Chiropractic Care Can Help

Chiropractic care can play a significant role in reducing stress and improving breastfeeding outcomes. Here’s how:

1. Regulating the Nervous System

Chiropractic adjustments help regulate the autonomic nervous system. By activating the parasympathetic system (which calms the body) and reducing the activity of the sympathetic system (the “fight or flight” system), chiropractic care can help reduce overall stress levels. This regulation helps ensure that the hypothalamus and pituitary gland can function properly, supporting the release of oxytocin and prolactin.

2. Neuro Emotional Technique (NET)

NET is a chiropractic technique that helps reduce the effects of stress in the body by addressing the emotional responses to stress. By identifying and disconnecting the stress response from its triggers, NET can help mothers manage their stress more effectively. This is particularly helpful during pregnancy and postpartum, as it can reduce the stress response during labor and early breastfeeding.

3. Mind-Body Healing Techniques

Using mind-body healing techniques to reduce stress during pregnancy, especially concerning the anticipation of birth, can help the body respond with less stress when the time comes. Techniques like mindfulness, relaxation exercises, and NET can help mothers process their emotions and fears around birth and postpartum, reducing the likelihood of stress interfering with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is a crucial part of early motherhood, but stress can make it more challenging. Understanding how stress affects breastfeeding and using chiropractic care to manage stress can greatly improve the experience for both mother and baby. By regulating the nervous system and using techniques like NET, chiropractic care can help ensure a smoother, more successful breastfeeding journey. If you’re a new mom or soon-to-be mom, consider incorporating chiropractic care into your routine to support your breastfeeding goals.

References:

Kiani AK, Maltese PE, Dautaj A, Paolacci S, Kurti D, Picotti PM, Bertelli M. Neurobiological basis of chiropractic manipulative treatment of the spine in the care of major depression. Acta Biomed. 2020 Nov 9;91(13-S):e2020006. doi: 10.23750/abm.v91i13-S.10536. PMID: 33170171; PMCID: PMC8023121.

Walter MH, Abele H, Plappert CF. The Role of Oxytocin and the Effect of Stress During Childbirth: Neurobiological Basics and Implications for Mother and Child. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021 Oct 27;12:742236. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2021.742236. PMID: 34777247; PMCID: PMC8578887.