Why It is Hard for Mothers to Breastfeed During War and What Can Be
Many women have been struggling to breastfeed since the war broke out. They are either anxious, stressed, or distracted, and therefore experience a decrease in breastmilk production. As a result, the baby might experience a drastic change in their breastfeeding habits. The change manifests in the baby’s nutrition and their physical and emotional security.
Many mothers feel that their breastmilk production has decreased due to the current situation. Anxiety, stress, and tension increase cortisol levels, the stress hormone that disrupts the oxytocin hormone required for expressing milk during breastfeeding.
In fact, stress might slow down the expression rate, both in breastfeeding and pumping. It is important to mention that this damage isn’t permanent but temporary. The milk production doesn’t decrease, but rather its release is delayed.
The war has disrupted the routine of many women, causing a widespread phenomenon of women suddenly experiencing breastfeeding issues. However, despite the challenges, there’s immense importance in preserving breastfeeding – especially in times like these – all the more so for women and babies who had their routines completely disrupted.
Breastmilk is the best nutrition since it provides immunity against antibodies and various immune factors. Breastfeeding serves as an emotional bond and provides a sense of security and calmness thanks to the physical contact of the mother and baby. All these are important under usual circumstances, and even more so, during these troubling times.
During war or a national crisis, many breastfeeding women can help by donating to the MADA Human Milk Bank, providing life-saving breastmilk donations to preemie and other NICU babies. Unfortunately, this current war has left many babies orphaned, and even injured and hospitalized, and they need constant breastmilk donations. The Human Milk Bank provides milk to babies thanks to the donations of breastfeeding mothers from all over the country.
If you’re breastfeeding and concerned about your milk production due to stress, here’s a guide covering everything you need to know to maintain your milk production.
How do stress and anxiety influence your breastfeeding?
As mentioned, stress and anxiety might lead to slower breastmilk release, both in breastfeeding and pumping. These temporarily affect milk expression.
You might notice for instance, that your baby is impatient while breastfeeding, or perhaps unlatching multiple times. In pumping, the amount of expressed milk might seem smaller since the milk might be delayed.
So what can you do?
The best tip we can give you is to be attentive to the baby and its needs. Allow the baby to breastfeed as much as desired. Breastfeeding sessions can take longer than usual, you might also have to alternate between the breasts several times during one breastfeeding session. This technique helps maximize your milk production.
Breastfeeding plays an important role in mutual regulation, skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding itself releases oxytocin both in your body and the baby’s. The oxytocin hormone promotes the expression of milk and has a soothing effect on a physiological level, both on the mother and the baby.
If you still feel you are unavailable to breastfeed during this time, you should try and maintain your milk production by pumping. It is also important to make sure you pump as many times as you breastfeed a day. This maintains the existing milk production and allows you to feed your baby with expressed breastmilk, and of course prevents you from experiencing congestion and breast inflammation.
You should take a few minutes during pumping, for deep breaths in order to relax your body and prepare to release milk. You can play calming music in the background, keep a piece of clothing that smells like your baby or anything else that comforts and relaxes you. If the milk is expressed slower than usual, you might want to prolong your pumping session.
You should take care of your physical and mental wellbeing during stressful times. Take good care of yourself and try to drink and eat as you regularly would; sleep as much as possible, take a break from watching the news and endlessly scrolling through social media, find simpler and soothing activities.
What can you do if you have to breastfeed in a safe room?
It is important to be prepared for the possibility of an unexpected alert. If you have a safe room in your house, you should convert it to a bedroom and make sure it is suitable for prolonged stays with your baby. Make sure you have an intimate spot there, and as comfortable as possible for breastfeeding, with everything you might need to breastfeed comfortably: water, snacks, changing kit, tetra blankets, a comfy chair, a bed, a nursing pillow, etc.
The author is a lactation consultant at Annabella, the only breast pump in the world that mimics your baby’s tongue movement.