Meditation, breastfeeding, and mindful mamas
Being a mom is often overwhelming. It’s not easy being responsible for a whole other human (even less so when you’re responsible for a few of them). Moms frequently feel lost in a brain fog. Even though breastfeeding is linked to that feel good hormone oxytocin, it’s not uncommon to feel “touched out” after a day of nursing. Mindfulness meditation is one way to re-center yourself on those challenging days. And it may be good for breastmilk production, too.
What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is exactly what it sounds like – a practice that combines meditation and mindfulness. Meditation is a centuries old practice that has been used in nearly every culture and religion to encourage calm, centeredness, focus, and awareness. In its most basic form, it is sitting or lying comfortably and focusing on your breath, a mantra, or a specific object. However, writing in a journal, walking, and breastfeeding can all become a meditative practice if you are practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply drawing your focus to the present moment and being fully involved in the experience of it.
The benefits of meditation for breastfeeding moms
Being a new mom can be a stressful time, especially when you’re juggling breastfeeding with work and other responsibilities. It’s not uncommon to feel exhausted and even depressed as a new mother. According to Mayo Clinic, meditation is a “simple, fast way to reduce stress” while cultivating inner peace. Research suggests that meditation helps to clear away information overload while offering a new perspective on stressful situations. It can reduce negative feelings while increasing patience. Research even suggests meditation may improve some medical conditions that are aggravated by stress, for example, anxiety, chronic pain, and tension headaches.
Meditation and breastmilk production
Notably, new research suggests that meditation may boost breastmilk production and even make pumping a more pleasant experience. How? The hormone oxytocin plays an important role in breastfeeding, as it triggers the let-down reflex and encourages mother-infant bonding. Studies show that stress hormones play a role in reducing milk production and inhibiting milk transfer by interfering with the production of oxytocin. According to one study, mindfulness meditation leads to the release of oxytocin in the brain, promoting a sense of well-being and stimulating bonding. More importantly to breastfeeding mothers, that release of oxytocin may stimulate breastmilk production.
Meditation while pumping for improved production
In another study, women who listened to a relaxation tape while pumping for twenty minutes a day had a 63% increase in milk production compared with the control group. Imagine that! Using your pumping session as an opportunity to meditate can boost your breastmilk production and improve your mood, your patience, and your stress levels.
How to practice mindfulness meditation while pumping
- GET COMFORTABLE. Find a cozy, quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. (This is a good time to call on your partner to run interference and protect your peace.) Attach your breast pump (or pumps if you are double-pumping) and find your maximum comfortable vacuum.
- FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING. Close your eyes and focus your attention on the rise and fall of your breath. Breathe in deeply, and when you release your breath, imagine stress and tension leaving your body.
- SCAN YOUR BODY. As you breathe in and out, scan your body from head to toe, noticing tension and letting it go. Keep breathing and allow your attention to your breathing to ground you if your mind begins to wander.
- BE KIND TO YOURSELF. You have many distractions in your life right now, many responsibilities, and your brain is likely to try to tiptoe back to those thoughts that cause you stress. That’s okay. Make a note of the thoughts and then gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
- REPEAT DAILY. For maximum rewards, repeat this practice at least twice a day for twenty minutes each.
A comfortable breast pump is important for this practice as it won’t distract you or cause discomfort. If you’re not sure which breast pump is right for you, get in touch with your friends at Milk N Mamas Baby. We can help you choose a pump that maximizes both your comfort and your breastmilk production.