It’s a natural process so I thought it would be easy to figure out. I wasn’t expecting it to be this hard.
Whether these exact words or a variation of them, this is one of the most common sentiments I hear from the mothers I'm supporting on their breastfeeding journey.
The truth is, mothers and babies have beautifully wise, natural instincts available for breastfeeding. Having consistent access to those instincts creates more ease around feeding. This requires a safe, calm, well-supported experience, which isn’t what most women have throughout their postpartum journey.
The stress response has a wide reaching, multifaced effect on breastfeeding through hormonal response and nervous system dysregulation.
When stress hormones rise, they reduce the effects of breastfeeding hormones for milk production and milk release/let down – that means when we’re constantly feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, milk supply decreases, impacting baby’s feeding behaviour and sometimes slowing their growth.
In our culture, where we’ve been conditioned to believe that outer knowledge – research, professional advice, input from friends and family – takes priority over inner knowing, activation of our stress response shifts us away from our embodied instincts into information collection and analysis to “figure things out”. Often, instead of connecting with solutions, this approach contributes to further overwhelm.
And, as stress shifts our nervous system into dysregulation, the sensitive nervous system of our baby may also shift into dysregulation, making it difficult for them to use their feeding reflexes and instincts.