Severe stress

Did my milk supply go down because I’m severely stressed?

Stress can decrease a mother's milk supply but it has to be significant stress. A poor night’s sleep won’t do it. Mothers who have faced major stress are less likely to start breastfeeding and more likely to stop breastfeeding early. Mothers under stress because of environmental or geo-political crises are strongly encouraged to breastfeed to protect their babies from illness and provide food security.

A) The effect of stress on breastfeeding

Stress rarely affects milk supply when mothers are breastfeeding effectively. A poor night’s sleep won’t do it. There are a few research reports of severe stress causing a decreased milk supply (Ruvalcaba 1987; Zhu 2013). Our clinic has cared for two mothers who experienced this. One of them had suffered the sudden death of her spouse, while the other was to be forcibly deported back to her country of origin.  

Mothers who have had major stress are less likely to start breastfeeding and are more likely to stop breastfeeding early (Kitsantas 2017). 

Mothers in environmental or geo-political crises are strongly encouraged to breastfeed as breastfeeding protects infants from illness and provides food security.

B) The effect of stress on mothers who are mostly or exclusively expressing

Expressing is less effective than breastfeeding at maintaining the milk supply. Pain and stress are more likely to decrease milk supply when mothers are expressing. Mothers should closely monitor their expressed amounts to ensure the milk supply is stable.

References

Kitsantas P, Gaffney KF, Nirmalraj L, et al. The influence of maternal life stressors on breastfeeding outcomes: A US population-based study. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2017 Dec 26:1-151
 
Ruvalcaba RHA. Stress-induced cessation of lactation. West J Med 1987;146:228-230
 
Zhu P, Hao J, Jiang X, et al. New insight into onset of lactation: mediating the negative effect of multiple perinatal biopsychosocial stress on breastfeeding duration. Breastfeed Med. 2013 Apr;8:151-8